Solar Goes West

Nov 22

The Texas-based Pecan Research Institute may have stumbled on a way to get more bang out of existing solar technology … by simply facing the panels in another direction—a cardinal direction that is. West to be exact. The results of a recent Pecan Street study on homes around Austin show that west-facing rooftop solar panels produced 49 percent more electricity during peak demand hours compared to the majority of homes, which have south-facing panels.

According to Katherine Tweed of Greentech Media’s article on, “The Research is the first of its kind to evaluate the energy production of solar panels oriented in different directions. Pecan Street analyzed 50 homes in the Austin, Texas area. Some had only south-facing panels, others had west-facing panels, and some had both. South-facing panels produced a 54 percent peak reduction overall, while west-facing solar PV panels produced a 65 percent peak reduction.”

“There’s no other residential demand response tool generating 60 percent reductions,” said Pecan Street CEO Brewster McCracken, “Those are pretty extraordinary peak reductions.”

After normalizing the data for a 5.5-kilowatt system, the westward panels beat the southward majority by almost 50 percent and generated 2 percent more of total daily electricity use. During time of peak demand, (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) 84 percent of electricity in homes with westward panels was used.

While some prefer panels to track the sun with flexible substrates to maximize absorption of the light spectrum, Pecan Street seems to be preoccupied with taking the home directional experiments to the next level. Round two will examine the pitch of a house’s roof. Apparently, solar panels fixed on flat roofs get better rates, but the vast majority of American homes have pitched or angled roofs. McCracken plans to expand his studies to homes Dallas as well as Colorado and California—both known for their bright sunshine.


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