This guide will explain exactly how to locate your solar panel in the UK for optimum performance of your solar power products.
It doesn't matter what product you use whether it is a small set of solar power fairy lights, or a more power hungry solar fountain, these important points should be well considered prior to installation.
The Angle of your panel
A solar panel is dependent upon the amount of light that hits the solar cells, so the angle at which the solar panel sits is of paramount importance.
The sun is at its highest at solar noon each day (this occurs exactly half way between sunrise and sunset), the irradiance from the sun at this time is at its most powerful, and you can generate the most voltage at this time.
Winter time is the real challenge, the sun for example in November / December in our northern hemisphere island, is actually around 16 to 20 degrees above the horizon, this depends obviously where in the UK you live.
Compare this with the summer time where the sun is considerably more intense and sits at an angle of around 50 to 65 degrees above the horizon.
If your panel is angled at say 45 degrees for arguments sake, then in winter you will be reducing the effective surface area of your solar panel, and will not be generating enough voltage to have a consistent, reliable product.
The best way to figure the angle is to go outside and observe exactly where in the sky the sun is at mid day, then literally tilt your solar panel, so that the cells are pointing directly at mid day sun, then change the angle of the panel every month or so.
Integrated solar panel
These types of products have the solar panel built in to the same housing as the Led's and batteries; the panel cannot be adjusted and is set in place.
Practically anyone can sell solar power products in summer, most integrated solar panel products come with a pre set 45 degree angle built in to them. This is fairly good for the UK in summer time, as it captures a relatively broad range of light, from around Late April to September, and will give at least some operation during the 'margin' months.
However this does not include overcast days, where unless the solar panel is facing true south without shade, most of these types of products will not perform consistently, unless there is sufficient battery backup.
Powerbee do sell products like this for example the 32 led solar security light, however we do make sure that the solar panel is high quality, it has a good wattage, and there is sufficient battery back up to ensure that these lights work consistently all year around.
These types of lights should never be installed in a north facing aspect, as they will simply not work during winter time.
Separated solar panel
These products have a separate solar panel which is then connected to the battery housing via a cable.
In almost all cases these types of solar power products, will work better in the UK in winter time, as they provide you with the flexibility of being able to adjust the angle of your panel, and therefore maximise the available light.
A good example of such a unit is the Signaller twin head security light, we ensure that there is a good length of cable (5 meters) to give our customers the best possible chance of locating the solar panel in a favourable location.
If you are installing your product in an area that is somewhat challenged in terms of light for example you want to install a light on an East or West facing wall, then the separate solar panel will always be the best choice.
Shade a real party pooper !
The significance of shade should not be underestimated, as even a small amount of shade can reduce the amount of voltage that a solar panel can generate dramatically, even one single cell that is covered by shade can in some cases reduce the output voltage of the whole panel by up to 50%.
This is also why you should make sure that you clean you solar panel from time to time.
Before you install your solar power product it is well worth doing an inspection of the area that you wish to locate it, and make a note of where the light is best, a great time to do this is a 12 o'clock mid day, as this is when you will be generating the most voltage, so you really want to optimise if possible this time of the day.
If you locate your solar panel with some care and thought it really can make a huge difference to the performance and reliability of your solar power product, Powerbee have been specialising in selling solar lights for nearly 10 years, they really can and do work during Winter time, but you do need to know how to locate your solar panel for the UK.