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May 22nd 2015

Measuring Solar Power

Some say the amount of energy reaching the surface of the Earth every hour is greater than the amount of energy used by the Earth’s population over an entire year. So when the sunshine hits a photovoltaic solar electric panel generating DC power, a natural question is, “How much power is my solar panel generating?” Measuring solar energy can help position your solar panel for maximum efficiency, so let’s start with the basics.

Understanding Solar Basics

Solar panels harvest the energy of the sun to create electrical energy and are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells…these cells are made up of materials called semiconductors. Photovoltaic simply means they convert sunlight into electricity. Many of these PV cells linked together make up a solar panel. Metal conductive plates on the sides of the cell collect the electrons and transfer them to wires. During the day, solar cells absorb particles of sunlight and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. DC electrical power wattage is the product of voltage and current. At that point, the electrons can flow like any other source of electricity. Find out more in our blog, “How Solar Power Works: Back to Basics.”

PV Forecasting

The orientation, pitch and shading of the panels all influence a solar panel’s efficiency by changing how much solar radiation they receive. Solar power forecasting involves knowledge of the sun’s path, the atmosphere’s condition, the scattering processes and the characteristics of a solar energy plant, which utilizes the sun’s energy to create solar power. Read more about solar electric (photovoltaic) system calculations on our blog, “Photovoltaic (PV) Energy Production Estimates.”

Solar Power Measurements

Solar energy can be measured in two ways before it is transformed into electricity. The two common methods include solar radiance (or radiation) and solar insolation.

Solar Radiation, also known as electromagnetic energy, is the instantaneous reading of solar energy (particularly electromagnetic energy). Calculated as power (measured in kilowatts) and divided by area (measured in square meters or square centimeters), solar radiance may be helpful to better position a solar array. The solar radiance is strongly dependent on location, atmospheric effects, season of the year and local weather.

Solar Insolation is the total solar energy that shines on a spot over a period of time. Also known as solar irradiation, insolation can be the total solar radiance data for a period of time or as an estimate from satellite images displaying how often an area experience dense cloud cover.

Solar Engineering

KMB is a leading consulting firm providing photovoltaic design and engineering services. Licensed in 49 states, KMB Design Group has the ability to work nationally without limitations and is at the forefront of the escalating solar industry. Our solar services include PV design and layout, construction administration, project management, energy usage analysis, energy production estimates and much more.  Get in touch with us today at 855-755-6234.