Impact of photovoltaic orientation on its relative economic value in wholesale energy markets



Most calculations of optimum photovoltaic (PV) performance focus on maximizing annual energy production. However, given the seasonally and daily time varying electricity demand and resulting variation in price, the PV orientation resulting in maximum energy yield may not yield the maximum economic benefit. With the use of historical solar irradiance and wholesale market prices for several locations in the USA, we evaluate the benefits of a variety of orientations for fixed and tracking PV arrays. We find that orienting fixed arrays slightly to the west of due south generally increases their economic value in the simulated systems because the reduced generation on an annual basis is more than offset by increased generation in high-value hours in late summer afternoons. However, this effect is small, typically providing an increase in value from 1% to 5%. The economic value of adjusting the orientation semi-annually (May 1st and September 1st) and monthly shows a modest increase in value from 3% to 5%. Several other implications of this analysis are also discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.