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Sun position and PV panels : a model to determine the best orientation

Gualla, Filippo LU (2015) In Student thesis series INES NGEM01 20151
Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
Abstract
The correct positioning of photovoltaic panels is essential to ensure the maximum production of electrical energy. Two parameters are involved in this: the tilt angle and the angle of orientation. In the literature, though, the orientation angle receives little attention. In this work, I present an application I developed using the Python programming language in a GIS environment that can help finding the best orientation for photovoltaic panels to make the most from the solar radiation.

The developed model required both physical and geographical data. The first type of data was about the solar radiation, and it required information related to the apparent motion of the sun relative to a terrestrial observer and data about the amount of... (More)
The correct positioning of photovoltaic panels is essential to ensure the maximum production of electrical energy. Two parameters are involved in this: the tilt angle and the angle of orientation. In the literature, though, the orientation angle receives little attention. In this work, I present an application I developed using the Python programming language in a GIS environment that can help finding the best orientation for photovoltaic panels to make the most from the solar radiation.

The developed model required both physical and geographical data. The first type of data was about the solar radiation, and it required information related to the apparent motion of the sun relative to a terrestrial observer and data about the amount of solar energy that hits the ground surface, which was provided by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. The geographical aspect of the project required the creation of a digital surface model from data acquired by LiDAR technology.

The GIS environment, where the model has been programmed, was Quantum GIS, which is a Free and Open-Source Software. The application is composed by a main python file and several auxiliary functions that provide interim results. Starting with a list of user-defined information about the area of interest, the application provides a range of both graphical and textual results that help better understanding the features of the solar radiation in the area and therefore provide some useful information for a more efficient use of solar energy.

The completed model was tested on a portion of Lund municipality, characterized by a non-built area in the immediate proximity of buildings. The results allowed a better understanding of the annual evolution of shadows, highlighting areas that benefit most from solar radiation and consequently how the shadows affect the average amount of solar energy (kWh/m2)that reaches the ground. The most useful result for the purpose of this study was the identification of the best angle of orientation of a photovoltaic system. The last annual output suggests how areas not hampered by shadows require an orientation angle of 180 degrees. Instead, the monthly outputs suggest the best orientation angle for those areas where 180 degrees is not the optimal value.

The proposed application is based on a simple physical model, it is developed with non-proprietary software and uses data that are becoming more and more available on the net and finally provides results within a reasonable time. Nonetheless, a model, as such, can always be reconsidered starting from its foundation and, therefore, can always be improved. Some aspects that are open to further development have already been identified during the implementation process. (Less)
Popular Abstract
Nowadays the interest in renewable energy sources is growing. Solar energy is definitely an endless resource and photovoltaic panels can transform it into electricity. However, correct orientation is essential to ensure the maximum efficiency of these panels. This work aims at developing an application to calculate the best orientation angle of a photovoltaic panel, based on the apparent motion of the sun relative to a fixed point on the Earth.

The sun rises and sets at slightly different times every day of the year and consequently describes different trajectories every day. For every given day, time and place, the exact position of the sun is defined by two angles: the angle of elevation and the azimuth. The application is based on a... (More)
Nowadays the interest in renewable energy sources is growing. Solar energy is definitely an endless resource and photovoltaic panels can transform it into electricity. However, correct orientation is essential to ensure the maximum efficiency of these panels. This work aims at developing an application to calculate the best orientation angle of a photovoltaic panel, based on the apparent motion of the sun relative to a fixed point on the Earth.

The sun rises and sets at slightly different times every day of the year and consequently describes different trajectories every day. For every given day, time and place, the exact position of the sun is defined by two angles: the angle of elevation and the azimuth. The application is based on a simple physical model that describes the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, and provides its exact location - the two angles - depending on the entered parameters. The area of interest - the point on the Earth where we want to carry out the analysis - is defined by its geographic coordinates and by a digital model of the surface that duplicates the natural and artificial structures on it. As a function of the position of the sun, the structures on the surface will produce different shadows: the change in the pattern of the shadows affects both the amount of energy potentially exploitable by a photovoltaic panel and the definition the optimal orientation of the panel itself.

From these physical and geographical backgrounds, the application was developed using the Python programming language. The model developed processes and displays the results in a GIS environment (Quantum GIS). Starting with a list of user-defined information about the area of interest, the application provides a range of both graphical and textual results that helps better understanding the behaviour of the solar radiation and the best orientation angles for photovoltaic panels in the area.

The model was tested on a portion of the Lund municipality making the simulation for the year 2015. The results allowed us to understand the annual evolution of shadows, highlighting the areas that benefit the most from solar radiation. The most useful result for this study’s purposes is the identification of the best angle of orientation of a photovoltaic system. One of the graphical outputs suggests how areas not hampered by shadows require an orientation angle of 180 degrees (facing directly South). In addition, another series of outputs suggest the best orientation angle for those areas where, according to the shadow pattern, 180 degrees is not the best orientation.

The proposed application is based on a simple physical model, it is developed with non-proprietary software and provides results within a reasonable time. However, a model, as such, can always be improved and during the implementation process some aspects that encourage further development of the model have already been identified. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Gualla, Filippo LU
supervisor
organization
alternative title
Orienting a photovoltaic panel to make the most of the sun’s energy
course
NGEM01 20151
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
orientation angle, solar radiation, DSM, LiDAR, Python modelling, GIS, Physical Geography and Ecosystem analysis, geography, photovoltaic systems, Lund municipality
publication/series
Student thesis series INES
report number
360
language
English
id
7994855
date added to LUP
2015-09-28 16:58:43
date last changed
2015-09-28 16:58:43
@misc{7994855,
  abstract     = {The correct positioning of photovoltaic panels is essential to ensure the maximum production of electrical energy. Two parameters are involved in this: the tilt angle and the angle of orientation. In the literature, though, the orientation angle receives little attention. In this work, I present an application I developed using the Python programming language in a GIS environment that can help finding the best orientation for photovoltaic panels to make the most from the solar radiation.

The developed model required both physical and geographical data. The first type of data was about the solar radiation, and it required information related to the apparent motion of the sun relative to a terrestrial observer and data about the amount of solar energy that hits the ground surface, which was provided by the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. The geographical aspect of the project required the creation of a digital surface model from data acquired by LiDAR technology.

The GIS environment, where the model has been programmed, was Quantum GIS, which is a Free and Open-Source Software. The application is composed by a main python file and several auxiliary functions that provide interim results. Starting with a list of user-defined information about the area of interest, the application provides a range of both graphical and textual results that help better understanding the features of the solar radiation in the area and therefore provide some useful information for a more efficient use of solar energy.

The completed model was tested on a portion of Lund municipality, characterized by a non-built area in the immediate proximity of buildings. The results allowed a better understanding of the annual evolution of shadows, highlighting areas that benefit most from solar radiation and consequently how the shadows affect the average amount of solar energy (kWh/m2)that reaches the ground. The most useful result for the purpose of this study was the identification of the best angle of orientation of a photovoltaic system. The last annual output suggests how areas not hampered by shadows require an orientation angle of 180 degrees. Instead, the monthly outputs suggest the best orientation angle for those areas where 180 degrees is not the optimal value.

The proposed application is based on a simple physical model, it is developed with non-proprietary software and uses data that are becoming more and more available on the net and finally provides results within a reasonable time. Nonetheless, a model, as such, can always be reconsidered starting from its foundation and, therefore, can always be improved. Some aspects that are open to further development have already been identified during the implementation process.},
  author       = {Gualla, Filippo},
  keyword      = {orientation angle,solar radiation,DSM,LiDAR,Python modelling,GIS,Physical Geography and Ecosystem analysis,geography,photovoltaic systems,Lund municipality},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Student thesis series INES},
  title        = {Sun position and PV panels : a model to determine the best orientation},
  year         = {2015},
}