Which way to point panels?

By Peter Fraser

There has been a lot of discussion in the news about prioritising solar panel aspect away from the North. Why?

Many large scale solar farms have north-facing panels and this allows them to take full advantage of the sun when it is at its most effective – at noon. But this is not necessarily when demand is highest, which is more likely to be in the morning (in winter) and afternoon (in summer).

If you have a net meter and solar panels at home you will be using the energy generated by your panels before exporting it to the grid. If so, it makes sense to use as much energy as you can when your panels are producing the maximum energy. So if you have a north-facing roof, then do your washing and cooking in the middle of the day, and then excess energy will be sold to the grid.

But if you tend to use air conditioners in summer, a north-west facing roof will help you most. And it will help the grid.

When it comes to the Goulburn solar farm, we had the choice of using systems such as 5B (see pic above) which have an east/west orientation when installed to the north. Alternatively, we could use a north-facing system and add a battery. We chose the latter because a properly angled north facing panel will still harvest the most energy, and if it can be stored and sold later in the day it helps the grid and it produces a higher financial return if selling to the spot market

Spot Market?

In Australia, wholesale electricity is sold by all large generators (over 1 Mw) in an auction that happens every half hour. So the price for wholesale power varies considerably both seasonally and hourly. We have chosen initially to sell on the wholesale market, and because we have a battery we can sell quite a lot of our energy at the times that generate the highest revenue – usually in the afternoon.

Stabilising the grid.

Even though our appliances work at 240 volts, the grid fluctuates either side of this. This can be a problem if the fluctuations are goo great. Batteries can help stabilise the grid when it gets out of whack and AMEO will pay for this to happen. That’s why the big Tesla battery in South Australia is so profitable – it gets paid a lot of money to help stabilise the grid. We are hoping we can also use this facility to increase our revenue.

About the Author:

Peter Fraser
Peter Fraser is the president of the Goulburn Community Energy Cooperative.

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