Assess Your Solar Potential
Before deciding if solar is right for you, you should assess the potential solar energy that can be produced at your address. The amount of energy generated by a solar PV system at a particular site depends on how much of the sun’s energy reaches it, and the size of the system itself.
For best performance, you need around 100 square ft of unshaded roof space for every kilowatt of electricity. The amount of solar radiation will be less if your roof faces SE or SW.
There are several tools available to help you determine your home’s solar energy potential:
- Solar Rooftop Potential
- NREL’s PVWatts Calculator
- Colorado State University Extension PV Calculator
- Energy Sage’s solar calculator
While these tools are helpful, they do not account for all the variables that need to be considered for your system.
Consider the following:
- Do you have enough sun? To generate the most electricity, solar panels should be placed in locations with the most sun exposure. In the northern hemisphere, the optimum solar panel location is a south-facing roof. West facing orientations are also suitable for solar installation as these systems produce energy later in the day when electricity is generally more expensive. Make sure there are no trees on your, or your neighbor’s property, that could eventually grow to block the sun.
- Can your roof handle it? Ensure the roof can hold the weight of the system (about 3-5lb per square foot) and that the roofing material will last as long as the PV system (25-30 years). If your roof is in poor condition, you may be a good candidate for solar roofing. If you expect to need a new roof within the next few years, you may want to consider making that improvement before installing solar. If not your roof, then do you have the ability to install a ground-mount system?
- Are there any city, county, or HOA requirements that could pose a problem?
- Is there available solar capacity in your area? Type your address into the interactive map below to see if your production may be limited.