Modeling Energy Produced by Solar Panels

(1) Centennial High School, Ellicott City, MD

As solar panels become increasingly popular, consumers want to know how to harvest more of the sun’s energy and how to increase the efficiency of solar panels. Determining the annual optimum tilt angle of a solar panel is a simple yet effective way to increase the energy generated. The hypothesis was that if the tilt angle of the solar panel was set to the latitude of the location, then the solar panel would generate the most energy annually. A mathematical model was built to simulate the amount of solar energy generated in a day and in a year and was used as comparison to field data. Ten solar panels of varying angles were set outside and the voltage across a resistor was logged every five minutes to measure the energy generated by the solar panels. The model simulation supported the hypothesis, as the solar panel tilt angle of 40° generated the most energy and the latitude of the location of the experiment was around 40°. The field data supports the hypothesis at the experimental latitude and the results of the simulation confirm the field data, and shows that the solar panel tilt angle should be set within ±10° of the latitude to produce the most energy.

Figure 1
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