Solar Incentives – Reward West-Facing Panels

California is encouraging home builders that install rooftop solar energy systems to tilt hose panels westward toward the setting sun.

The goal is to capture more renewable energy in the waning hours of the day, when electricity demands are often highest, explained David Hochschild, a member of the California Energy Commission who specializes in renewable energy. The goal is to avoid more of the air pollution that comes from gas-fired generators at conventional power plants.

In the northern hemisphere, rooftop panels typically have been oriented toward the south to capture as much sunlight as possible throughout the day.

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West-facing panels generate about 20 percent less power overall. But can boost energy production by 50 percent or more between the hours of 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

“Even though it is less energy on an annual basis, it’s more valuable from an air pollution perspective,” Hochschild said in an interview on Friday.

The new guidelines increase rebates for west-facing solar energy systems by 15 percent, or as much as $500 per home, under a program known as the California Solar Initiative. Hochschild said it appears to be the first incentive in the country based specifically on west-facing solar panels.

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