Solar panels are becoming more mainstream and accessible as the world shifts toward renewable energy usage.
If you want to build an array or farm of solar panels, you will need to know how many solar panels cover up the surface area of that piece of land.
Before we can answer how many solar panels I need to power an acre, we need to gather some readings and measurements and do a few calculations.
Step 1: Determine the Solar Panel’s Efficiency Rate
A solar panel’s efficiency rate is the amount of energy absorbed from the sun and converted into usable electrical energy per solar panel.
The primary material used in solar panels today is silicon which can be formed in three ways, each of which has different efficiency rates.
A monocrystalline solar panel has the highest efficiency rating, sitting anywhere between 15% and 23%.
The lifespan of monocrystalline solar panels lasts around 25 to 30 years, and the single-crystal structure gives the electrons more room to move and creates a better flow of electricity.
The polycrystalline solar panels fall under the average bracket, having an efficiency of anywhere between 12% and 18%.
Their lifespan is between 22 to 25 years, and the mixture of many kinds of crystals gives the electrons less space to move around.
This solar panel is preferred due to the price as it's cheaper than monocrystalline.
Lastly, we have thin-film solar panels, having an efficiency of 9% to 14%, making this the least efficient out of the lot. It has under 20 years of life and is typically used to fit the roofs of RVs.
Out of all the solar panels to have in your solar array, a monocrystalline model stands out as the most durable and most efficient power.
That being said, it won’t come cheap, but it’ll be worth every penny.
Step 2: Sizing Out and Measuring Your Land
So you can’t want to place down solar panels or create an array but don’t have enough land to do so.
There are certain factors that you need to consider, especially for those who want to become or already are large-scale power producers.
These factors include local construction laws or any other spacing issues along those lines.
You also need to consider whether the area you want to build your solar array on is exposed to the sun often. For this, we need to look at peak-sun hours.
Solar panels produce more energy in places where the sun is shining. If you aren’t familiar with your area’s sun hours, we got you covered.
Simply go online and have a look at maps showing the world solar insolation values. This will give you the average amount of sunlight per day based on your location.
Every solar panel comes in varied sizes and dimensions.
Step 3: Calculations
Acre of Land
The first calculation we need to perform is calculating the energy needed per acre of land.
Normally, one square meter of solar panels that are directly exposed to sunlight will receive around 1 kilowatt-hour of energy per hour for every 6 hours of exposure.
One kilowatt-hour is equivalent to one thousand watts used in one hour.
An acre of land is almost 4050 square meters, and since we established that the average solar panel is around 1 square meter, we will have around 4050 solar panels in our array covering an acre of land.
If you wanted to know how many megawatts 4050 solar panels will produce or how many solar panels to generate 1 megawatt, it would be around 4.5 megawatts of power produced.
To put this into perspective, one megawatt can power an average American home for one and a half months.
Also, on average, it takes around 2,000 solar panels to produce 1 megawatt of power.
So since we have more than the average amount of power, you no longer need to ask questions like how many solar panels to power an AC unit or a refrigerator as there’s plenty of power to go around.
That sounds like a lot, but for big-power users, this is the correct amount for those wanting to build an array or farm of solar panels.
This will receive around 4,050 kilowatt-hours of electricity for the 6 hours of exposure, or roughly 12,00 kilowatt-hours per day.
How Much Energy You Can Use
The next calculation that needs to be performed is how much energy you can use. This is done by multiplying the energy you receive by the efficiency rate of your solar panel.
For example, using our value above, if we have a solar panel with an efficiency rate of 20% and we receive around 12,500 kilowatt-hours per day, we will end up with 2,500 kilowatt-hours.
This value is how much electricity we receive and can use once the conversion process is finished.
It also gives us a closer look at how to calculate solar panel output, but that’s a topic for another time.
The following calculation that needs to take place is subtracting your maximum potential energy needs from the amount of energy that’s produced.
To determine your solar needs, write down what you think your solar array will power, obtain the wattage of every appliance, and how much time you spend using them.
You then multiply the values, and you will get watt-hours, and if you divide it by 1000, you will get kilowatt-hours.
This doesn’t have to be calculated as it's typically shown on your monthly electric bill, but it’s essential to know how to calculate it should the need ever arise.
The average family here in the US uses around 920-kilowatt-hours per month.
If we use our example of 4860-kilowatt hours of usable energy per day, you will be able to produce enough energy to power four average households every month.
Cost of It All
A 200W solar panel from Shop Solar Kit will cost you around $240 per unit, so if you need over 4,000 solar panels, you’ll be looking at values around the $900,000 region.
You won’t be able to install this solo, and it's recommended to get a company to come out to the field and set everything up for you.
Quotes can be made with these companies, and they will answer questions like how much a solar panel costs per square foot or acre.
The number of solar panels per acre isn't too difficult to determine once you’ve gone through all the necessary measurements and calculations.
Once you have the kilowatt-hours of your solar panel, figuring out how many solar panels you need for an acre of land is a piece of cake.
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