Go West, young man [whose job it is to install solar panels]
As we neared graduating time at art school in Brooklyn, we students began dividing into two camps: Stayers and Leavers, with the former ready to seek their fortunes in NYC, and the latter scattering across the globe in pursuit of work. My friend Helena, a Stayer and an Art Direction major, worried about the NYC real estate market: "What if I can't find an apartment," she fretted, "with southern light?"
That southern exposures yield the most sunlight during the day is well-known among every architect, interiors photographer and loft-seeking artist in the Northern Hemisphere. Slightly less well-known is that northern exposures supposedly reveal truer colors. But now it's another direction that's coming into play concerning the sun, and that direction is west.
The Pecan Street Research Institute, based at the University of Texas at Austin, has determined that Northern-Hemisphere solar panels need to face west in order to maximize their potential. This goes against all common sense, as it is southern exposure that yields the most hours of sunlight during the day. But a study of 50 homes in the Austin area found that the ones with west-facing panels fared far better.
Why? The answer is to do with the humans living inside the houses, not the panels themselves. Peak electricity demand in that region is defined as 3pm to 7pm--exactly when the sun is in the west. That means west-facing panels produced almost 50% more juice during the hours when it counts most, which led to a 65% peak reduction (versus the 54% peak reduction of a south-facing solar panel). Following on that, Quartz opines, "Most of the world's solar panels are facing the wrong direction."
"There's no other residential demand response tool generating 60 percent reductions," PCRI CEO Brewster McCracken told Green Tech Media. "Those are pretty extraordinary peak reductions."
I'm of the opinion that more people enjoy watching sunsets than sunrises. Solar panels, it seems, ought to follow suit.