Northern-facing solar panels – mandatory?

It seems a given to most people you speak to that you need northern-facing solar panels in the Southern Hemisphere if you want to maximise your solar savings. There’s no doubt that north facing panels produce the most electricity overall – but now that the vast majority of homeowners don’t have access to the (artificially) high feed-in tariffs, it’s being suggested that we rethink the ‘best’ solar panel orientation – especially if you don’t have a solar battery.

 Northern-Facing Solar Panels

Northern-Facing Solar Panels
Northern-Facing Solar Panels (source: sciencenews.org)

ABC Radio Adelaide recently aired an interview with ShineHub solar consultant Alex Georgiou where he questioned the standard of north-facing solar panels. “If the panels are on the east face in the morning, you are able to use that power when you wake up,” Georgiou said – noting that it’s important to consider your specific circumstances rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach when looking to install a solar system.

For example, if you are in QLD and have north facing solar panels, your FIT (feed-in tariff) is generally around $0.12c/kWh. This used to be (and still is, for those lucky enough to be on a grandfathered plan) $0.44/kWh so exporting energy back to the grid during the day was a good thing. Given that most people use more electricity in the morning and the evenings, you might be better off generating more electricity in the morning or afternoon so you can use it then. People generally pay double the FIT of $0.12/kWh for electricity from a retailer so it’s important to have a look at the figures to choose what’s right for you!

West facing solar panels and east facing solar panels produce approximately 12% less energy than north facing, but they will produce more in the afternoon and morning (respectively). If you find yourself at home using air conditioning in summer or heating on cold winter mornings during those times, and don’t have battery storage, it may be worth taking a look at some of the numbers before you go straight for north facing panels. Tradies who leave for work early but are home by early afternoon may wish to use air conditioning when they get home and west facing solar panels can be great for this!

With all this said, the ideal circumstance is to install a solar battery and capture energy to use during peak periods – so for the most part that would be north facing panels. It remains, however, important to challenge the notion that it’s a given that you should always install your solar panels facing north – as with all things solar it comes down to your individual needs. Any questions? Post them in the comments below and we’d be happy to help! 

 

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