Does solar energy work in rural Iowa?

With the drop in prices for solar panels, power generation from solar panels in a photovoltaic array, is now within reach of rural Iowans. The winter sun, on a good day, has been strongest from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those are the peak hours for my array so far. On a good day we generate in the range of 7-9 kWh. We have had cloudy days, of course, when we generate less than 1 kWh. Our daily home use, depending on the amount of heating and cooling we are doing, is between 20 and 40 kWh per day, so my goal for the next year is to produce about 20% of my power with this array.

So far, January 23 has seen the highest one-day production, 10.1 kWh. My array started generating power at 7:40 a.m. and shut down at 5:25 p.m. on that day. January so far has been an up and down month with a sunny day followed by a cloudy day typically.

March 2, 2014 update

January usage: 1646 kWh (47 kWh per day)

January PV array production: 149 kWh (9% of usage)

February PV array production: 166 kWh

PV array production so far in 2014: 315 kWh

March 23, 2014 update

Today we manually changed the angle on our array to approximately 45 degrees. This is necessary due to the fact that the sun is higher in the sky as the days get longer. Check out this handy solar angle calculator: http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/solar-angle-calculator.html.

6-panel solar array rated at 1.5 kWh. We installed this array in December 2013.

6-panel solar array rated at 1.5 kWh. We installed this array in December 2013.

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