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ENERGY use 208 6.


Photovoltaic Systems
Photovoltaic technology has been used to Crystalline modules need to be cool. Output siting
power homes for many years, and with good efficiency of crystalline PV arrays decreases
reason. Sufficient sunlight falls on Australia by 0.5 per cent per degree Celcius over the Orientation
to provide the nation’s total energy needs. standard test temperature of 25°C. Good
Solar modules produce most power when they
With a few solar modules the homeowner ventilation is required at the back of modules.
are pointed directly at the sun. It is important
can capture some of this abundant Exposure to cool breezes when siting modules
to install them so that they receive maximum
energy. This fact sheet should be read in is an important consideration.
sunlight. Ideally they should be in full sun from
conjunction with 6.6 Renewable Energy.
Amorphous silicon is one of a number of thin 9am to 3pm in mid winter.
film technologies. This type of solar cell can be
The chart below for latitude 35°S shows the
applied as a film to low cost substrates such as
effect of orientation and elevation on module
glass or plastic in a variety of module sizes.
output, expressed as a percentage of the
Advantages of thin film cells include easier maximum possible output. Note that a wide
deposition and assembly, low cost of substrates range of elevation and orientation angles will
or building materials, ease of production and still provide useful output, Your installer will
suitability to large applications. orient the modules to best meet your needs

irrespective of the angle of your roof.

Efficiency of thin film modules is lower than
that of crystalline modules but all the types of 90
modules are price competitive. Those currently 80

on the market degrade in output by up to 10 50% 70

per cent when first exposed to sunlight but 90%

Titl angle
quickly stabilise to their rated output.
Historically a niche product, photovoltaics are Thin film modules have various (often flexible) 100%
now being used to provide price-competitive, coating and mounting systems. Some are less 20

zero greenhouse emission energy to homes and susceptible to damage from hail and other 10

businesses across the country. impacts than those covered in glass. S 150 120 W 60 30 N 30 60 E 120 150 S

Australian government rebates will only be paid Solar modules can be supplied with a frame,
if systems are installed by accredited installers. usually constructed of anodised aluminium, or Variation of solar module output with orientation and
tilt angle for latitude 35°S.
Installers can be found on the Clean Energy as an unframed laminate.
Council website at
More solar modules are being fabricated as
building materials so that they can be integrated
solar modules into the building fabric. They include solar roof For stand alone PV systems (SAPS), where
tiles, wall materials and semi-transparent roof winter operation is crucial, the angle should be
Solar modules come in two distinct categories –
material for atriums and skylights. the latitude plus 15º.
crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon.
It is anticipated that further development of thin For grid connected systems the angle
Crystalline solar modules are covered with
film technology will lead to a proliferation of cost should be latitude minus 10º to maximise the
tempered glass on top and a tough ethylene
effective, PV coated building materials that can amount of energy produced annually. Latitude
vinyl acetate (EVA) material at the back. The
be integrated with the building fabric to reduce adjustments for grid connected systems in
glass and backing material protect the solar
costs, see ‘Building Integrated PV’. most climates fit within an acceptable roof pitch
cells from moisture.
range (eg. for Sydney’s latitude this is close to
All PV modules need to be cleaned periodically
The most efficient crystalline silicon cells are 22º for grid connected systems on a common
to maintain their efficiency.
made from slices of a large single crystal ingot roof pitch).
(hence known as monocrystalline). While
Output power of an array is directly proportional
multicrystalline or polycrystalline cells have
to power received from the sun. This will
a speckled appearance from multiple small
vary throughout the day. The rated maximum
crystals which slightly reduces their efficiency.
output of the module might only be achieved
occasionally, depending on the actual site.

System designers calculate the output energy Shading one of the cells in a module is similar Array frames can be fixed, adjustable or
from the peak sun hours, which is a measure of to opening a switch in a circuit and stopping tracking. System designers choose the right
the available solar energy. It is numerically equal the current flowing. This results in a loss of frame for your system.
to the daily solar radiation in kWh/m2 (Note: power from many cells, not just the one that is
Fixed frames are set at the optimum tilt angle
it is not the same as the number of hours of shaded. Partial shading can cause hot spots’
for the system. Optimum tilt angle is dependent
sunlight). Peak sun hours varies throughout the that can damage the module. This occurs in
on the type of load and available solar power.
year. Peak sun hours are usually averaged and mono and poly crystalline modules but not in
presented as a monthly figure. amorphous modules. Arrays should not be As a rule of thumb, if the main loads are
located near trees that will grow and shade the in winter months when solar availability is
The following table shows the monthly and
modules. reduced, tilt angles should be more vertical
annual peak sunhours for various locations in
(approximately equal to latitude plus 15º) to
Australia. Standard solar modules are supplied with
maximise exposure to the low winter sun. If
junction boxes on the back to facilitate electrical
major loads are cooling and refrigeration the tilt
interconnection. Some modules used in grid
angle should be reduced (approximately latitude

connected systems now have leads and plugs/

minus 10º) to maximise output during summer.

sockets for easier installation.


For grid connect systems the summer optimum

Bypass diodes are supplied within junction angle should be used to maximise annual
boxes for mono and poly crystalline modules. output of the modules.
January 6.9 6.7 6.5
These bypass diodes allow current to
February 6.4 5.8 6.2 flow through them when cells are shaded,
March 5.2 5.7 5.7 minimising the possibility of cell damage from
April 3.8 4.4 4.8 shading.
May 2.8 3.6 4.2 At night solar cells act as a resistance and
June 2.4 3.4 4.1 current will flow from the battery bank into the
July 2.7 3.3 4.2 module. The amount of power lost due to this
process is greater in poly crystalline modules
August 3.3 4.4 5.2
than mono crystalline modules.
September 4.3 5.2 6.0
Blocking diodes should be installed in junction
October 5.3 5.8 5.9
boxes to prevent this. Your installer will provide
November 6.1 6.3 6.0 the appropriate equipment where needed.
December 6.6 6.9 6.3
In SAPS the PV array needs to be installed as
Annual 4.6 5.1 5.4 close as possible to the batteries to minimise
the power loss between the modules and the
The peak power output of modules is rated batteries. The system designer will determine
in kilowatt peak (kWp), and is measured the size of the cable to minimise the power loss
under standard test conditions. The table between the modules and the batteries. [See:
below indicates the annual load in kilowatt
6.9 Batteries and Inverters]
hours (kWh) that can be met by a 1kWp grid
connected system and a stand alone system If modules are mounted some distance from
for different annual average peak sun hours. batteries, they can be wired in series to allow
Output over the year will vary in line with the higher voltage and lower current. An electronic
monthly sunhours as shown in the table above. component called a maximiser is used to
Solar panels should face due north. Sydney angle of
convert output to the correct battery voltage. latitude is 34°.
The figures for the systems differ due to the
different efficiencies of associated equipment Adjustable frames allow the tilt angle to
such as inverters and batteries. be varied manually throughout the year to
Installation maximise output year round. In practice it has
Annual been found that although many people change
Peak 4 4.5 5 5.5 6 Modules can be fixed on the ground, wall or
the tilt angle of the frame in the first few years
Sunhours roof with a frame mount, or integrated into the
of operation, they forget to do this as the years
kWh/year building fabric.
progress. If this situation is likely, it is best to fix
grid 1120 1260 1400 1540 1680
connect the array at optimum angle.
kWh/year Array frames Tracking array frames follow the sun as its path
stand 810 910 1015 1115 1215
alone across the sky varies throughout the day and
Solar array frames are tilted so that the modules
year. They are controlled either by an electric
face the sun. In Australia modules face north. In
A typical Sydney household has an electricity motor or the use of a refrigerant gas in the
tropical areas this means the sun will be south
usage of about 5,000kWh per year. A house frame that uses the heat of the sun to move the
of the array for part of the summer but this
with energy efficient appliances and using non- gas around the frame to follow the sun.
does not greatly affect output, see ‘Orientation
electric cooking, heating and hot water could and elevation’.
use as little as 1,000kWh per year.

Trackers are more expensive than fixed array BiPV products requiring few additional
frames but by following the sun they provide installation details beyond standard
more power throughout the day. They are most construction practice are beginning to appear.
beneficial at higher latitudes where the available These are not yet common in Australia.
solar energy is lower. However, tracking arrays, PV can be integrated into roofs, facades,
being mechanical devices, require maintenance skylights or awnings. Facade systems are not
and may reduce system reliability. recommended in Australia as the energy output
is lower due to vertical elevation and generally
The outputs of crystalline modules are affected
high sun angles.
by temperature. As the temperature increases,
the output of the solar module will decrease. Many BiPV installations do not allow effective
Amorphous solar modules are less affected. To cooling of crystalline modules which results in
keep mono and polycrystalline modules cool lower output. This needs careful consideration
they should be well ventilated, with a gap of at in the design.
least 150mm behind them to allow airflow.
PV roofing elements need to be compatible
Array frames must be designed to meet with any non-PV elements for structural and
Australian wind loading standards. aesthetic reasons.
Don’t hide BiPV systems.
Avoid corrosion. If the array frame and module Shading elements such as BiPV awnings
frame are made of different metals they must
Expose them as a prestigious reduce cooling load at the same time as
be separated by an isolating material to prevent
element of modern generating electricity. They are usually quite
electrochemical corrosion. This also applies if architecture. accessible for cleaning purposes.
mounting a module on a metal roof.
Semi-transparent PV modules can replace glass
For PV systems of more than 1kWp, it is worth New buildings should be designed so that PV skylights and glass roofing in many situations.
considering the installation of a maximum elements face north at the near optimum tilt The dappled light quality can be used effectively
power-point tracker. This is a control device angle. See ‘Siting’. by skilled designers.
that ensures that there is always the maximum
energy transfer between the modules and the Additional REading
load. Grid interactive inverters generally have Roof integration
a MPPT built in. For stand alone systems the Contact your State / Territory government or local
Rooftop systems can be either partially or council for further information on renewable energy,
benefit will depend on the particular application, fully integrated. In the latter case the elements including what rebates are available.
and the designer will advise whether it is must also fulfil the usual functions of strength,
appropriate. watertightness, drainage, etc. Careful detailing A lternative Technology Association (2004), Solar
The ability of the roof framing to be able to is required. electricity: Plan your own solar electricity system
withstand the concentrated wind load from the Partially integrated systems use special
stand must be checked and if necessary the mounting structures to hold the cells, but A ustralian Business Council for Sustainable Energy,
roof may require strenghtening. Electricity from the Sun, Solar PV Systems Explained,
require an additional waterproof layer.

 lean Energy Council

Building Integrated
PV (BiPV) Modules
 reen M (2000), Power to the People: Sunlight to
Mirvac Lend Lease Village Consortium

True building integration requires that the PV Electricity Using Solar Cells, UNSW Press, Sydney.
product is either fully integrated into or replaces Markvart T (ed) (2000), Solar Electricity, 2nd edition,
an existing building element. John Wiley and Sons, QLD.
PV installations are currently a considerable P hotovoltaic Systems, Australian Government
additional expense, but if done well BiPV
construction should add considerable value to
R eNew, Solar Panels Buyers Guide, Issue 101
a home.
Newington village used a partially integrated PV system.
T he Australia and New Zealand Solar Energy Society
Solar tiles or shingles are designed to replace
conventional tiles or roofing. They allow easy T he International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power
access to the rear of the tiles for ventilation Systems Program
and maintenance. The roof space must be
ventilated to keep the tiles cool.
Principal authors:
Roofs are often at a pitch that is close to the Geoff Stapleton
optimum PV module tilt angle. For example, the Geoff Milne
optimum tilt angle for a grid connected system Contributing authors:
in Sydney is about 24º, which is very close to Chris Reardon
the most common roof pitch. Chris Riedy
Installing semi transparent PV panels.