All over the world, more and more businesses are investing in commercial solar panels. There are a few reasons for this. For one, the efficiency of solar panels has improved significantly in recent years. There's also increasing pressure on businesses to use renewable energy solutions to reduce their carbon footprint with Governments setting ambitious net-zero targets.
Many businesses are spending a fortune on commercial solar panels. However, some aren't doing enough to maintain the efficiency of their solar panels during their lifetime. As a result, their panels don't output as much electricity as they could, costing the business.
There are a variety of things businesses can do to maintain the efficiency of their solar panels. Here are our top six ways businesses can improve commercial solar panel efficiency and obtain the best possible output of electricity.
The 6 Best Ways To Improve Solar Panel Efficiency
1. Buy one of the more efficient solar panel models
Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, and it is these cells that convert solar energy in the form of sunlight into usable electricity. Although it would be awesome, a solar panel can't transform all of the solar energy it receives into electricity.
Therefore, a panel's efficiency is the percentage of energy hitting the panels that the photovoltaic cells actually convert into electricity.
Solar cell technology has come a long way in the past five years, and average solar cell efficiency has increased from about 15% to 20%. However, not all solar panels are created equal, and the material and structure of a model determine its efficiency (and price).
Although the initial cost will likely be more expensive, buying one of the more efficient models of commercial solar panels is arguably the most important thing you can do if you want the best results.
In 2020, some of the most efficient commercial solar panel models on offer are produced by LG and Sunpower, with efficiencies of about 22%. Check out Clean Energy Reviews breakdown of the top 10 solar panel models in 2020 for more information and to find the model that's right for you and your business.
2. Buy panels with High Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Cells
The principle of CPV is to focus sunlight onto an extremely high-efficiency solar cell that would be otherwise too expensive to use directly. The best traditional solar panels peak at 22% efficiency, whereas the cells used in CPV panels can reach 46% efficiency!
However, with great efficiency comes an expensive price tag. CPV panels can cost up to 4x more than traditional PV panels.
There's also not as many models of CPV available as traditional PV. But, it's certainly worth considering CPV if you can find a supplier and have the money to spend upfront.
3. Avoid installing solar panels in shaded areas
Since solar panels generate electricity from sunlight, it makes sense that shade harms the electricity output. However, many people aren't aware of the effect of shade on a series of solar panels.
If even one photovoltaic cell is shaded, it can impact the energy generated by its neighbour cells. This is because it acts as a resistor.
Tall trees and other buildings are the two main offenders when it comes to shading solar panels. Make sure you spend time during the planning process to analyse a site and ensure that shade isn't going to be an issue.
4. Get an expert to install your solar panels
If solar panels aren't installed correctly, they won't receive the optimal amount of sunlight and will generate less electricity.
Some of the main things to consider when installing panels are the orientation and the angle. Typically, solar panels should sit at an angle between 18 to 36 degrees for maximum sunlight exposure. If you're in the northern hemisphere, your solar panels should be orientated towards the south. Likewise, they should be facing north if you're in the southern hemisphere.
Somewhat ironically, solar panel efficiency is also affected by temperature levels. The effectiveness of panels can drop as the temperature increases. A sufficient gap should be left between the solar panels and the roof during installation. This allows easy movement of air and prevents your photovoltaic solar panels from overheating.
If all of this information is new to you, it's probably worth enlisting the help of an expert to install your solar panels to ensure you get the most benefit from them.
5. Clean your solar panels
Since solar panels don't have any moving parts, they require very little maintenance. However, it's best to clean your solar panels occasionally as dust and dirt can accumulate on the surface, reducing efficiency.
How often you should clean your solar panels depends on several factors such as how frequently it rains and how much it costs you to have them cleaned.
Over the course of a year, dust and dirt may only cause a 5% decline in output. However, if they get very dirty — perhaps in a location that does not get regular rainfall — the output decline can be greater than 20%. Therefore, cleaning your solar panels once a year is a pretty good idea.
6. Monitor your solar panel output using energy management software
Some businesses install solar panels and if they're happy with the initial output levels, forget about them. This is a problem because if you don't monitor the amount of energy generated by your solar panels, you won't notice when their efficiency drops.
One way you can keep an eye on your generation levels is by connecting your solar panels to energy management software such as Surple. Doing this, you can monitor the output over time and detect any unexpected decreases.
With Surple's analytical tools, this is simple. Just head over to the Analytics page, select your solar meters and look at the energy generated. Is it less than you'd expect? Maybe it's time to clean them? Or, perhaps a panel is faulty?
Learn more: Introduction to energy analytics »
Energy managers are busy, though, and if you can spend less time digging through data, that's better. Right? I agree. That's why I'm going to tell you an even better way of monitoring your solar panel output using Surple.
Head over to the Alarms page and create an alarm for any set of solar meters. Then, enter the minimum amount of energy that you'd expect them to be generating. That's it. You're all done. Now you'll be notified in Surple and via email when the selected meters generate less electricity than the set threshold.
Essentially, using Surple, you can rest easy in the knowledge that your panels are functioning efficiently until an alarm is triggered. Then, it might be time to clean your panels or check they're not faulty.
There you have it. More businesses than ever are investing in commercial solar panels as a way of saving money and reducing their impact on the environment.
However, if commercial solar panels aren't installed, maintained and monitored correctly, you likely won't achieve maximum efficiency when it comes to electricity output.
These six tips should help you improve solar panel efficiency and maintain optimal performance levels, saving you money and reducing your businesses impact on the planet.
Since you read this guide, you may also be interested in our comprehensive guide to energy management for business looking to improve the efficiency of their buildings.
Remember, using Surple is a great way to improve solar panel efficiency. If you've recently installed solar panels and would like to hook them up to Surple, simply click the link below to book your demo.