Your local climate does impact the efficiency of your solar power system. Here’s how to maximise your solar panels, no matter where you live.
Almost everyone can benefit from installing solar panels – but some locations within Australia are better suited than others. Your town or city may have certain natural advantages that make installing solar particularly attractive, or there could be local factors that risk reducing your system’s efficiency. The good news? Once you understand exactly how solar panels work, you can tailor your solar system to perform well, wherever you live.
We all know that solar panels generate energy from the sun’s rays. But it’s important to understand that it’s sunlight – not sun heat – that powers the panels. The brighter the sun, the more power you’ll generate – so, if you live in a cooler climate but enjoy clear skies most days, you’ll generate more solar power than if you live somewhere with a warmer but cloudier climate. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Perth is the state capital with the most hours of sunlight a day– 8.8 hours, on average – closely followed by Brisbane.
Although solar panels don’t generate power from heat, the temperature where you live does affect your system’s effectiveness. “Solar panels generate most efficiently at 25° Celsius,” explains David Nicolas, NextGen Product Lead at EnergyAustralia. “As it gets hotter, panels can actually become slightly less efficient.” That doesn’t mean homeowners in hot locations should disregard solar panels, though. “In hotter areas, the loss in efficiency in summer is often counterbalanced by other factors such as more sunlight hours,” Nicolas says. “Even though you may lose a bit of efficiency at the peak of a very hot day, you’re still generating more power in summer than you would in winter.”
Solar power is still a viable option if you live in an area that experiences wild storms or high winds – Queensland’s cyclone belt, for example – but in these locations it’s crucial to choose tough solar gear and a reputable installer. “The success of your system in these conditions will depend largely on the panels you choose,” says Nicolas. “For example, EnergyAustralia’s top-of-the-line panels, which are made by LG, are rated to withstand wind pressure up to 5400 pascals, equivalent to 345 km/h. To put that in context, Cyclone Katrina reached wind speeds of 270 km/h.” It’s also important to choose a panel-mounting system that’s been tested in cyclone conditions, and – because the mounting system will be attached to the roof – you should also consider the strength and durability of the roof itself.
Rooftops that receive significant amounts of uninterrupted sunlight are ideal locations for solar panels, but you can still achieve impressive results on partially shaded rooftops. However, it’s important to choose the best type of inverter (that’s the piece of gear that converts the raw power from your panels into useable energy). If portions of your roof are shaded at different times of the day, consider a top-of-the-range inverter called a ‘micro-inverter’, rather than the standard ‘string inverter’. “If you have six panels, and one of them is operating at 70% because it has cloud cover over it, a string inverter can only take 70% from the other five panels,” Nicolas says. “With a string inverter, the least productive panel determines the output of the other panels. But having micro-inverters can ensure if one panel is shaded, it doesn't affect the output of the other panels on your roof, maximising your output.”
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