Conventional wisdom in the northern hemisphere is to face solar panels south so they get the most light all day. Architects and panel installers implement this approach all the time, especially on homes. But a new study indicates that panels facing west may actually get more juice from the sun, and at more convenient times.
Researchers at the Pecan Street Research Institute did a study of homes with solar panels in Austin, Texas and found that when homeowners faced solar panels west they were able to generate 2% more electricity in a day. And they also generated more electricity in the afternoon, when power grids experience peak demand.
Though a 2% increase in electricity generation isn't enormous, it would certainly add up over the life of solar panels. And the rise in afternoon performance, reducing grid dependance during peak hours by 65% as opposed to 54% for south-facing panels, could have widespread efficiency implications beyond single homes.
It's only one study so nothing is definitive yet, but if nothing else the research raises a good point about testing solar panel performance in practice instead of just assuming that angling south is always the way to go. [Quartz via Digg]