Why Aren't my Solar Panels Performing 1Why Aren’t My Solar Panels Performing?

Have you ever noticed that some people buy what other people have so that they can apparently also have what they think those other people have got. However very frequently, even though they appear to have exactly the same thing, they never really get what those other people have got anyway?

Let me clarify, …. or possibly add to the confusion. If two people are talking to each other, one is always older, one is always shorter, one enjoys better health, one is wealthier, one is wiser and one of them has a better taste in music and fashion. Whilst I know this to be true, I am not sure who is qualified to make these determinations; especially the fashion aspect.

You can never have what someone else has. You can have something similar, the same shape, size , weight and colour but other factors, both beyond your control and those even within your control, will determine its performance and the enjoyment or the functionality it provides.

You may love it more or you may love it less than another; but never the same.

In 1971, when I was 14 years of age I lived in the ACT and for some strange reason I was on Canberra avenue when two brand new XY GT Falcons were stopped side by side at the traffic lights. What were the odds of that ever happening? Without disappointment, when the lights turned green they both took off in a haze of smoke and furry. It was the greatest day of my life.

Having experienced such a rarity of the privilege of seeing these now iconic machines perform live at such a young age instantaneously transformed me into a lifelong petrol head which had me having had a couple of performance cars, (including an XY), a few years on the race track with production cars, racing Clubman series go karts and two trips to Bathurst as pit crew.

One of those XYs on Canberra Avenue was slower than the other. Maybe a better driver was at the wheel, maybe a blueprinted motor or tyre choice made the difference or perhaps, as I suspect, they were both new factory standard, unmolested machines and “time and chance” played its part.

On our roof are solar panels as one may now find on almost ¼ of the homes in Australia.

BUT, we don’t get an electricity bill and we also receive four payments each year for the amount of energy we export into the grid. I know of others who receive more each year in payments for exported electricity than we do, including someone who has less panels, ie 4.6kW as opposed to most others who have 5kW systems and our 6.1 kW system, but the overwhelming majority of people I know, are paid significantly less with many of them having electricity bills of hundreds of dollars each quarter. Now, as Professor Julius Sumner Miller used to ask, “why is it so”.

Two photo voltaic systems of identical make and model should perform exactly the same under the same conditions, …. but they don’t, … and they never will. They never will because even identical twins are really not identical and the longer identical twins live the less identical they become as time and chance has the opportunity to increase its influence both physically and emotionally.

Sure the “DNA” of the solar panels is a good indicator of what performance we can reasonably expect, however, the “epigenetics” including how and where they are mounted, the topography of the location site, the climate zone and possible solar exposure can very easily make one system well outperform another identical system operating elsewhere.

Why Aren't my Solar Panels Performing 2

Even poorly performing panels with efficiencies below 16% can deliver a greater financial return or a greater electricity saving if mounted ideally for the homes locational latitude and mounting orientation. And then, depending on a family’s electrical input tariff and the family’s electrical consumption profile, two identical systems will provide vastly different outcomes.

The first picture shows panels that are never going to perform to their potential on any day of the year because although they are mounted well enough for the their locational latitude and orientation, they are not afforded full sun access at any time during significant solar exposure. Even with micro inverters, that is, an inverter on each panel, (which incidentally this system does not have), the system performance is compromised at almost every hour of the day and certainly during peak sun hours.

This system will never perform well, …. ever … and even more poorly during the winter months when the sun is lower in the sky and solar shading is further increased.

There are however others who endeavour to get the best out of every situation. The owner of the solar panels in the second picture has made an effort, inconvenient and more costly, but an effort that will pay off in the long run. Whilst it would have been easier to simply mount the panels on the roof which face east and west, the system was mounted, (hopefully not in a high wind area) to best suit its locational latitude and orientation.

These panels will perform vey well for the owners. If you are considering joining the solar panel family, consider being a “good parent” and provide a fertile environment for your solar panels to flourish. Give them every chance of success you possibly can. Driving your car on the racetrack with the handbrake on will compromise its performance.

Limiting the solar exposure of a home’s solar panels via incorrect orientation for
your usage profile or FIT (Feed In Tarrif) and/or permitting daytime shading, will
never permit your system to perform optimally >>>LEARN MORE>>>

Looking at these two photos, one system looks neater than the other however I suspect one system performs extremely well whilst the other does not.

These photos are merely two examples at the opposite end of that spectrum.

What compromises are you prepared to make to increase the performance of your system?

John Lynn