The sun is shining on more solar panels than ever before. In the US, a new solar project is installed every 3.2 minutes and the number of cumulative installations stands at more than 500,000.
Pull out your compass, and you’ll observe that most of these solar installations point southward. There’s a good reason why: south-facing panels capture the most sunlight and produce the most energy over the course of a year.
But as of late, many energy thinkers are pivoting toward the western sky. They’ve pointed out that west-facing solar panels are better at generating power in the late afternoon – when the grid can benefit the most from the extra juice. A field study last year of 50 solar homes in Texas verified this west-facing advantage, and some sunny states are already betting on it. In September, the California Energy Commission lit the way when it announced a $500 incentive for the installation of west-facing panels on new homes.
So, how many rooftop solar systems currently point west? How many don’t? What’s at stake for utilities and consumers? And what are the implications for designing the power grid of tomorrow?