Question: Mauricio asks: A family member is wanting to build a 30’x50′ shop on his property. He was told the building should face true south. However, an Electrical Easement cuts his property diagonally drastically reducing the area and changing the direction of the placement of the building. My questions are does the direction of the building effect the placement of the solar panels? enough to halt construction? Is there a solution to face the panels south regardless of the direction of the building?


Hi Mauricio, thanks for your question concerning the optimum alignment of solar panels in a residential setting for maximum solar energy collection.

First, I’m going to assume you are referring to photovoltaic (PV) solar electric panels, and not panels for solar water heating or any other type of solar collection panel.

There are various options when it comes to residential PV solar panels. There are fixed panels as well as panels that track the direction of the sun, which obviously are more efficient than fixed

Fixed PV panels located on the roof are the most common form of residential solar power. For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, the panels should face true south for optimum solar energy collection. For those in the Southern Hemisphere they should face north.

That said, the panels can face southeast or southwest and still obtain quite a bit of solar energy, but the further the direction of the panels from true south, the less energy will be acquired.

Unfortunately you did not mention which direction the building will now face due to the electrical easement cutting into the property. I cannot say whether this will halt construction because I don’t know what the electrical requirements are.

If your family member was planning on providing 100% of his electricity through solar energy, and now the roofline cannot face the proper direction to obtain the necessary amount of solar energy to provide that amount of electricity, then yes I would say construction should be halted. You may be able to look into a solar PV array that does not attach to the roof, as is commonly done in large commercial projects. I haven’t seen that type of product available for residential use however, but that doesn’t mean it’s not available.

If your family member is not able to produce their own power through a solar PV array, then the next best thing would be to purchase “green” renewable power. There are many avenues to do this in the US as well as around the world.

Good luck!


imageDavid M. Pratt

David M. Pratt, P.E., CEM, LEED AP is an Energy Management Consultant for Sustainable Climate and Energy Solutions group of MWH Americas, Inc.

MWH is the global leader of the wet infrastructure sector.

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