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How to Locate Your Sunniest Solar Space

By Seth Rollings | Energy, Urban Design

Solar Path Finder

So you’ve decided you need solar panels in your life and you don’t know where to put them. A solar path finder will ensure that you have chosen the correct locale.  The solar path finder does not take any special skills and requires very minimal training to be accurate.

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Solar Pathfinder. Image via Flickr user, Sam Ley.

When and Where to Install Solar Panels?

The solar path finder can be used any time of the day and provides a years’ worth of data in only a few minutes. Whether the weather is sunny or cloudy, you can use it anytime.  Once you understand the three main parts of the solar path finder, you will be able to take a permanent reading of the sun’s path in any given location.  It is most helpful in situations where people have trees or other structures that provide shade on the area. The following are components of a solar path finder:

The Base

  • This is normally a tripod which needs to be put in a fairly level position to keep the reading accurate.

The Instrument

  • Once the base is level you may put the instrument section on top of the base.
  • The instrument contains a compass which should be rotated until facing north.
  • A printed diagram is on the instrument which can also be rotated for declination of true south.  Many diagrams are available for different longitudes.
  • The bubble level in the center of the instrument enables you to pivot the instrument back and forth to make the reading perfect.

The Reflective Dome

  • The dome is placed on top of the instrument.
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German solar panel systems. Image via Jimmy Baikovic, Creative Commons.

Shade Analysis

The shade analysis is done by factoring in the panoramic view of the site reflected onto the dome, and the sun path diagram seen through the dome at the same time. By drawing an outline of the reflected view upon the diagram, you will receive a chart of when that area will be shaded in different times of the year. It will also give you the sun’s intensity and how many hours of daylight that area will receive.

Cost effective

The sun path calculator is a very useful tool. If you are on a grid tied system then it will ensure you receive the maximum amount of Federal Tax Credits, which will help you pay the solar panels off the fastest. If you are on a stand-alone system then it might let you watch a little more television or read a book at night time. Basic surveying should be a requirement for all solar construction sites, however if your panels are already up then pointing them in a southern direction is recommended.

For more information on installing your own solar panels, check out Wholesale Solar’s DIY FAQ’s.

About The Author

Seth Rollings
My name is Seth, and I am a New Mexico Transplant from Georgia. I have a passion for all things science and technology. I love playing the guitar and record my songs as well. I'm currently attending Eastern New Mexico University at Roswell for Renewable Energy Technologies. Questions are always encouraged.