Maximizing Efficiency in Large Scale Solar Installations: Design and Structural Considerations

Society has a massive dependence on electricity. Without it, factories could not run, homes would have no power, and we would be back to relying on fire to provide heat when the weather gets cold. There are many sources of energy that can create this electricity, but many of them fall short in terms of renewability and positive effects on the environment.

Solar energy is a newer technology in the grand scheme of human history. However, it may have some of the greatest potential in terms of producing electricity for our lights, buildings, and machines. 

Installing solar infrastructure at scale is a big project to tackle, whether you are placing panels on the roof of your home or developing an entire solar farm on a property. To maximize efficiency, there are many considerations to keep in mind, especially as they relate to design and structure.

Exposure to Sunlight

The most important consideration when installing solar panels for energy is where to place them. Panels are only able to harness the sun’s power if they are exposed to direct sunlight. On your property, there may be some areas that are better suited for solar panel placement than others. For example, if you have a large tree next to your home, then panels on your roof may not be exposed to peak irradiation long enough to make them operate efficiently. However, some rooftops, if they are angled toward the sun correctly, are in pole position to experience the most direct sunlight out of all the areas on your property. Placement for optimal sunlight should directly inform your strategy for installing solar panels. 

Power Generation Needs

How much power do you want to be produced by these solar panels? How many solar panels are needed for 1000 kWh per month to keep your small home supplied with electricity? These are questions that will ultimately impact your installation plan. For example, if you determine that you need a higher volume of panels, then your roof may not be large enough to accommodate all of them. Instead, it may be necessary to construct them out on open land where you can fit a larger number. Before you start having panels installed, calculate your electricity needs to see what type of structure can accommodate these renovations. The last thing you want is to have too many panels that result in wasteful spending, though you could potentially sell extra power back to the grid. 

Building Materials

Solar panels can be added to existing structures or built with structural framing directly on the ground. It depends on the location of optimal sunlight and your power needs. However, another important factor to consider is the sturdiness of the structure on which you plan to install those panels. A high number of solar panels may be too heavy for your roof to accommodate if the building does not use strong enough materials for the roof structure. If you are planning to place solar panels on an agricultural building like a pole barn, one built with wooden trusses may not be able to take the weight. You may need to rely on stronger materials to handle this extra weight, so 50-ft trusses made from steel may be necessary to preserve structural integrity. 

External and Internal Solar Infrastructure

Large-scale solar installations do not just involve panels on the roof or out on the property. There are other elements of the infrastructure that must be considered for a complete installation. For example, you will need to choose a solar inverter to convert the harvested sunlight into power, and that inverter will need to be placed somewhere inside the building while being connected to the panels. Batteries to store the harnessed energy for later use often have to be closed in ventilated enclosures to protect them from the weather and ensure the building’s interior remains safe. Breaker boxes, meters, and charge controllers may also need places on your property, so you will need a building design that can incorporate the entire infrastructure to ensure the solar system works. If you have to completely overhaul the design of your home to incorporate a solar installation, then this may not be the best way to maximize efficiency for the project. 

Solar Installations Require Planning

Although solar technology is becoming cheaper over time, it is still a big expense. The equipment alone can be very costly, and most people have to pay for labor for solar technicians to install the system correctly. This is why researching and planning are crucial to maximize efficiency for your solar strategy. You must have structures in place that can handle the solar infrastructure, as well as a prime location to harvest sunlight as efficiently as possible. The design of your property must also allow for the various components of the solar system to be installed and connected. Spend plenty of time in the research phase to ensure you take all these structural and design components into consideration for a more efficient use of solar energy. 

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