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Residential Solar Panel Performance Improvement

based on Optimal Intervals and Optimal Tilt Angle

Morteza Sarailoo1, Student Member, IEEE, Shahrokh Akhlaghi1, Student Member, IEEE, Mandana
Rezaeiahari2, Hossein Sangrody1, Student Member, IEEE,
Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, Binghamton University, State University of New York,
Binghamton, NY 13902, USA {msarail1,sakhlag1, habdoll1}@binghamton.edu
Industrial Engineering Department, Binghamton University, State University of New York, Binghamton, NY
13902, USA, mrezaei1@binghamton.edu

Abstract—In this paper, daily and yearly performance of a solar The tilt angle of the solar panels plays an essential rule in
panel for residential usage is improved. To this end, an capturing maximum solar radiation. The optimal tilt angle of a
optimization problem is proposed and solved to find the optimal solar panel depends on the daily, monthly and yearly path of
periods for a given number of intervals. It is shown that a the sun. The accurate determination of the optimal tilt angle is
limited number of tilt angle adjustments can significantly essential for the maximum energy production for the location
increase the maximum power production of a solar panel if the of interest. The optimal tilt angle is calculated by searching for
intervals are chosen properly. Therefore, this paper proposes a a tilt angle for which the maximum total radiation during a
three steps algorithm to find the optimal period for each specific period of time and a specific location is collected. The
interval. First, the optimal tilt angle for a given interval is
calculation of the optimal tilt angle depends on latitude, solar
computed by using a Bee Algorithm (BA). Second, an
radiation characteristics, utilization period, and climatic
optimization problem is formed and solved to get new periods
for all intervals, which is guaranteed to have a better condition at the particular site. A simple and secure solution to
performance than the previous periods. And finally, a stopping capture the maximum daily energy is to use a solar tracking
criterion is checked to decide whether the previous step has to system. Yet, the trackers are mechanical, their associated
be repeated or the obtained periods are acceptable. The effects facilities are costly, and they consume energy. A more
of the initial intervals on the results of the proposed algorithm practical solution is to find the optimal tilt angles for a specific
are also investigated. The effectiveness of the proposed approach number of intervals and manually orient the solar collectors
is studied at the Binghamton area, NY, US. The results show during each interval. Finding the optimal tilt angle and optimal
improvement in the received solar power by using the optimal duration for an interval can be formulated as optimization
intervals. problems, which are challenging to solve.
In recent years, many studies have been conducted on
Index Terms--Solar panel performance, optimal tilt angle,
optimal interval.
calculation of the optimal tilt angle of solar panels and solar
collectors in different locations around the world. Saraf and
Hamad [4] studied the relation between the tilt angle and
I. INTRODUCTION harvested energy from solar collectors on a flat plate in Iraq by
Implementation of renewable energy resources, such as calculating the harvested energy for various tilt angles. They
solar, geothermal, wind and etc., are growing rapidly due to concluded that adjusting the tilt angle 8 times a year can
much lower impact on environment. The renewable energy capture the same amount of energy as when the tilt angle is
resources are offering clean and domestic source of energy. adjusted daily. Skeiker [5] calculated the optimal tilt angle of
Solar energy as a primary source of renewable energy is the solar collectors by using a mathematical model in the
becoming increasingly popular due to being a ubiquitous and Syrian area. It was concluded that adjusting the tilt angle 12
immense source of energy which can provide abundant heat times a year can capture approximately the maximum solar
and electric power [1]. Solar panels and solar collectors are radiation. Benghanem [6] determined the optimal tilt angle of
among the most promising renewable energy technologies. the solar collectors in Saudi Arabia to get the maximum solar
Solar radiation has a great influence on the performance of the radiation. He concluded that, monthly adjustment can achieve
solar panels and solar collectors. The amount of solar radiation 8% more surface radiation in compare with yearly adjustment.
incident on solar panels and solar collectors is significantly In US, Lave and Kleissl [7] calculated the optimal tilt angle
affected by their orientation and tilt angle [2]-[3]. The solar and the azimuth angle of solar panels. The result showed that a
panels and solar collectors generally are oriented toward the solar panel with a fixed tilted angle gets 10-25% higher
equator, i.e. toward the south in northern hemisphere and irradiations with increasing latitude. In Turkey, Bakirci [8]
toward the north in southern hemisphere. found that the variation of the optimal tilt angle throughout a
year is between the 0$ and 65$ . In [9], authors determined the

optimal tilt angle of solar panels in Taiwan by using non- by 360$ / 24 h = 15$ per hour with morning negative and
linear time varying particle swarm optimization. Despotovic afternoon positive. The declination ( δ ) of the sun is the angle
and Nedic [10] estimated the optimal tilt angle of a solar panel between a plane perpendicular to a line between the sun and
to get the maximum total radiation by searching for the values earth and the earth’s axis. It should be noted that the earth’s
of slope and orientation. Akhlaghi et. al. [11] calculated the
axis is tilted around 23.45$ with respect to its orbit around the
optimal number of intervals and their corresponding optimal
sun. The declination angle of the sun can be approximated as.
tilt angles for residential solar panels at different locations in
the US. 23.45π § 2π (284 + n) · (2)
δ= sin ¨ ¸
As it has been reported by most researchers, the maximum 180 © 365 ¹
solar power can be harvested only when the solar panel where n is the nth day of the year [12], for example the January
includes a tracking system. An alternative, especially for 1st is 1.
residential solar panels, is to adjust the tilt angle manually
couple of times during a year. Researchers have suggested
different number of intervals, from 4 to 12 [4]-[6], [11];
however, no one has proposed a systematic algorithm to α
optimally divide a year into the suggested number of intervals. β

In this paper a novel algorithm is proposed for increasing the

overall and daily output of a solar panel by finding the optimal
periods for a given number of intervals. It is shown that γ
because a limited number of tilt angle adjustments is sufficient γn ϕ

to achieve a significant improvement, it is not necessary to Fig. 1. Zenith, azimuth and hour angles
implement a continuous solar tracking system. The proposed
novel algorithm is used to find the optimal periods for the The title angle ( β ) of solar panel is the angle between the
desired number of intervals, iteratively, starting from the surface plane and the horizontal which varies from 0$ to 90$ .
optimal tilt angles for the initial intervals. The optimal tilt The azimuth angle ( γ ) is the sun’s position with respect to the
angle for a given interval is computed by using BA. It is
shown that the proposed algorithm is independent of the north-south axis which varies from −180$ to 180$ .
selection of initial intervals. The proposed approach is applied
at Binghamton area, NY, US. B. Solar time, local time, sunrise and sunset angles
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. In Section II, Solar time refers to the sun’s location relative to the
solar model, that captures relation between orientation of a observer, which is different for various longitudes where the
solar panel and its received solar radiation, is presented in solar time is calculated. Whereas the local time is same in the
details. The optimal tilt angle using the BA is formulated and entire time zone. To adjust the solar time, the term (Longsm-
presented in Section III. In Section IV, the novel approach for LongLocal)/15 must be added to the local time. Longsm is the
determination of the optimal intervals is presented. The results longitude of the standard meridian of the time zone of
of using the proposed algorithm at Binghamton area, NY, US observer and LongLocal is the observer longitude in degree.
are presented in Section V. Finally, conclusions are drawn in The sunrise and sunset occur when the sun is at the
Section VI. horizon when the cosine of zenith angle is zero. From
equation (1) the sunrise ( ωsr ) and sunset ( ωss ) can be
achieved as:
This section introduces the basic of solar radiation and
model to determine the solar radiation on the surface of solar ωsr , ss = cos −1 (− tan ϕ tan δ ) (3)
panels. The model presented in this section is for northern
hemisphere. The model for southern hemisphere can be C. Global, Beam, Diffuse and Reflected Radiation
obtained similarly. On average, the solar radiation incident Global solar radiation can be categorized into direct or
outside the earth’s atmosphere which is called beam radiation (HB), diffuse radiation (HD) and reflect
“extraterrestrial radiation” is around 1367 W/m2 [6]. radiation (HR). Direct or beam solar radiation (HB) is the
incident solar radiation which directly comes from the sun and
A. Solar Geometry reaches the earth’s surface without being considerably
The sun’s position in the sky can be described by zenith scattered. To calculate the direct beam radiation several
angle ( θ ) which is the angle of the sun relative to a line models have been proposed by researchers [7]-[10]. The direct
vertical to the earth’s surface. The zenith angle can be beam radiation received on inclined surface can be estimated
calculated as (Shown in Fig. 1): by following equation.
cos θ = sin ϕ sin δ + cos ϕ cos δ cos ω (1) H B = ( H g − H d ) Rb (4)
where ϕ is the latitude of the location and ω is the hour where Hg and Hd are the monthly mean daily global radiation
[12] and diffuse radiation on a horizontal surface. Rb is the
angle which is the angle between the longitude of the location
ratio of the direct beam radiation between tilted surface and
on the earth’s surface and the longitude that is parallel to sun’s
beam. Since the earth revolves every 24 h, therefore ω varies

horizontal surface. Rb for the northern hemisphere (-) and be used for solving the optimization problem (10). In addition,
southern hemisphere (+) can be estimated as follows: because (10) is continuous and it is not possible to implement
cos(ϕ # β ) cos δ sin ωss + ωss sin(ϕ # β ) sin δ (5) such cost function using heuristic algorithms following
Rb = optimization problem is solved instead of (10).
cos ϕ cos δ sin ωss + ωss sin ϕ sin δ
where the ωss is the sunset hour angle for the tilted surface,
¦ k
H T (k Δt ) (11)

given by equation (3). In this paper, BA is used for solving (11). BA has been
used by many researchers for solving various optimization
Diffuse radiation (HD) is the sunlight radiation which is
problems [17]. Using the BA, a function BA(.) is introduced
scattered by the clouds or particles. Several methods to
for finding the optimal tilt angle of a given interval Si as ȕi,opt=
estimate the ratio of diffuse solar radiation between tilted
surface and horizontal surface have been proposed in the
literature which can be classified into isotropic and anisotropic The data for solar radiation on different locations are
[5], [12]-[13]. Diffuse radiation can be estimated as: available at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
website. For prediction of the optimal tilt angle, here only an
H D = Rd H d (6)
average of the last 20 years observation data has been used;
To choose between different models, the reader may refer however one can use more advance techniques such as
to [1] for more information. In this paper, the diffuse radiation quantile regression [18]. Fig. 2 Shows the result of using BA
for clear atmosphere is calculated based on Liu and Jordan’s for computation of optimal tilt angle at Binghamton, NY, US
model [10] as: for different intervals, namely daily, monthly, seasonal and
yearly. It can be seen that optimal tilt angle varies significantly
1 + cos( β ) (7) during a year, thus using the yearly or seasonal optimal tilt
Rd =
2 angles will result in smaller harvested power.
Reflected radiation (HR) is reflected from the ground
significantly when the ground is covered by snow. This
radiation only strikes by tilted panels and can be calculated by
1 − cos( β ) (8)
HR = Hg ρ
where ρ is the ground albedo. If no information is available,
based on the literature it can be assumed to be 0.2 [10]-[14].
According to the aforementioned equations, total radiation
(HT) on the surface of a solar panel normally estimated as:
HT = H B + H D + H R
1 − cos( β )
= ( H g − H d ) Rb + Rd H d + H g ρ
Fig. 2. Optimal tilt angle for different intervals, daily, monthly, seasonal
Based on (9), in order to estimate the global solar radiation and yearly at Binghamton, NY, US.
on tilted surface, the direct and diffuse component of global
radiation are needed. As it will be shown shortly in Section V (Fig. 3), there is a
nonlinear relation between the number of intervals and the
III. OPTIMAL TILT ANGLE COMPUTATION USING BEE aggregated received power during a year, i.e., the increase rate
ALGORITHM of the aggregated power during a year significantly decreases
as the number of intervals increases. In other words, investing
Optimal tilt angle problem can be formulated as a search in an automatic tracking system may not result in a great
for the best tilt angle (ȕ) that can provide the maximum solar advantage over manually adjusting the optimal tilt angle a
radiation (HT) at the surface of a solar panel over a given couple of times during a year.
period of time, as in (10).
β ³t0
H T (t )dt
It is possible to also add some inequality constraints to As mentioned in introduction, scholars have suggested to
guarantee that during some given intervals total harvested adjust the optimal tilt angle of a solar panel a fixed number of
solar radiation should be greater than a minimum value. times over a year, i.e. 4-12 times, in order to improve the
Because of highly nonlinear relationship between tilt angle (ȕ) performance of solar panels [4]-[6], [11]. Still, the optimal
and the total of the solar radiation over a time interval at the intervals for tilt angle adjustment has NOT been studied yet.
surface of a solar panel (HT), this optimization problem cannot Therefore, this paper proposed a systematic approach to
be directly solved using mathematical programming such as determine the optimal periods for the desired number of
convex optimization. Therefore a heuristic algorithm, such as intervals (N). The proposed approach is summarized in three
particle swarm [15], genetic algorithm [16], or BA [17], has to steps.

Step (0) - Initialization area. It should be noted; this result may change for different
A year is equally divided into the desired number of areas.
intervals N and sets Si0 are formed i = 1,…, N. Set Si0 includes
all days belonging to the ith interval. The optimal tilt angle of
each set βi0,opt is calculated by solving (11) over the period of
the interval, and its corresponding day di0,opt in that interval is
Step (I) - optimal Intervals
Each day of the year is reassigned to one of the N intervals
in a way to minimize a weighted multi-objective optimization
problem (12).
N Mi
Minimize ¦¦ §¨© λ β
i =1 j =1
k −1
i ,opt
− β kj + (1 − λ ) dik,opt − d kj ·¸
¹ Fig. 3. Aggregated solar power during a year as a function of the number
(12) of intervals, at Binghamton, NY, US.
subject to ¦M i
i = 365,  Sik = ∅, In addition, Fig. 4 shows the daily solar power over a year
for different intervals, i.e., daily, monthly, seasonal and yearly.
∀d qk ∈ S kp , d qk ≠ f ( S kp ), d qk ≠ g ( S kp ) → d qk−1, d qk+1 ∈ S kp
From this figure, it can be seen that monthly intervals can
Where sets Sik are optimization variables, k represents provide almost the same power as adjusting optimal tilt angle
on a daily basis.
iteration of the algorithm, M ik denotes the total number of the
days in the set Sik , functions f(.) and g(.) determine the first
and last days belonging to the set Sik , and Ȝ is a forgetting
factor which 0 < Ȝ <1, i.e., Ȝ = 0.9995.
Step (II) - Stopping criterion
Recalculate the optimal tilt angle βik,opt for new intervals
k k-1
Sik if |ȕ i,opt - ȕ i,opt| ” İ for all i, or k > kmax stops; otherwise
for each set Sik , obtained from previous step, find the optimal
tilt angle βik,opt and its corresponding day dik,opt in that interval.
Go to step (I).
Remark 1. Here a procedure is proposed to solve the
optimization problem (12). This producer takes advantage of Fig. 4. Daily solar power during a year for different intervlas at
Binghamton, NY, US.
the direct connection between the output of a solar panel and
its tilt angle. When the tilt angle of a solar panel gets closer to 70 70

the optimal tilt angle of a day, the outputs of the solar panel 60 60

also gets closer to its maximum for that day. Thus, following 50 50

procedure is proposed. Starting from dk1=dk-11,opt, find 40 40



j=argmini{Ȝ| ȕk-11,opt –BA(dk1)|+(1- Ȝ)| dk-11,opt - dk1 |,…, Ȝ| ȕk- 30 Interval 1

Interval 2
30 Interval 1
Interval 2
1 k k-1 k k-1 k
i,opt –BA(d 1)|+(1- Ȝ)| d i,opt - d 1 |,…, Ȝ| ȕ N,opt –BA(d 1)|+(1-
20 Interval 3 Interval 3
Interval 4 Inetrval 4

Ȝ)| dk-1N,opt - dk1|}, and assign dk1 to the set Skj. Set dk2=dk-11,opt 10 10

+1 and repeat the previous procedure until all days of a year 0

0 20 40 60 80 100
0 20 40 60 80 100

has been assigned to one of the N sets Sk1,…, SkN.

Iteration Iteration

Fig. 5. Optimal tilt angles of intervals as a function of the algorithm

iteration, left) starting from seasonal intervals, right) starting from
V. CASE STUDY equally divided year into 4 intervals, at Binghamton, NY, US
In this section to evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed In order to show the effects of the initial intervals on the
approach, the solar radiation data of Binghamton, NY, US is results of the proposed approach, the proposed algorithm has
used as a case study. Based on simulation studies, the effect of been applied to two different sets of initial intervals for N = 4;
different number of intervals on the total obtained solar power dividing a year into 4 equal intervals and seasonal intervals.
in Binghamton area during a year has been studied. Fig. 3 Fig. 5 shows the optimal tilt angle of each interval as a
shows the effect of increasing the number of intervals on the function of the algorithm iteration for seasonal intervals and
total power using the optimal tilt angle for each interval. From equally divided initial intervals. In addition, Fig. 6 and Fig. 7
this figure, it is obvious that, after four intervals there is not present the daily solar power for both sets of initial intervals
big achievement on the total received power in Binghamton and optimal intervals. It is clear that regardless of the initial
intervals, the daily solar power of the optimal intervals are

almost the same, although the algorithm converges to two finding the optimal periods was applied to the data obtained
different sets of optimal intervals. for Binghamton area, NY, US with 4 desired intervals. It was
p g p

8500 4 1 2 3
shown that regardless of the initial intervals, the proposed
algorithm always results in almost same daily solar power for
8000 the optimal intervals. In addition, it was observed that using
the proposed appraoch with a reasonable number of intervals,
i.e. 3-5, results in almost same solar power as using daily
adjustment of solar panels.



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