Monday, January 9, 2012

Smoothing Sailing Until Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Can you remember the last time you were sitting down with a good friend having lunch and just moments after a short break in conversation you look over to witness them starring off into the distance, deep in thought?

Me: "What are you thinking about?"
Daydreamer: "Oh... just... never mind, it was nothing really."

There's an inner daydreamer in all of us.

The reality is we all have sudden breaks in our daily lives where our thoughts lead us to another world. Many people think about joyous times they had when they were a kid, others remember that amazing meal they enjoyed at a fancy restaurant last week, while some may be thinking about great times to come.

If you're having lunch with me, though, and this happens... you can be pretty sure I'm thinking about solar systems and the possibility of shading.

It's a curse, really, to be among the lucky few who take on the important job of designing and engineering solar systems in order to maximize the amount of available daylight year round while minimizing shading.

...And truthfully it's not always an easy job.

You see, the planet is constantly moving and not just at a cavalier speed. The Earth is rotating, tilting and moving around our universe at about 67,000 miles per hour. (Good thing there are no intergalactic policemen!) When taking into consideration the tilt of the Earth and its relation to our beautiful and resourceful sun, along with the time of year and time of day, well... this whole issue of designing solar systems become a bit more difficult. Throw tall trees and long shadows in the mix and it's even more interesting. Luckily I'm always up for a good challenge.

If you took a survey of the average American, I'm quite certain you would find that nearly everyone realizes the days become shorter in the winter while summer days are longer. The job of a solar system engineer is to identify what tilt and azimuth is ideal for not only each individual season but also production values on an annual basis. Another important factor is shading. Suffice to say we certainly have our work cut out for us.

Shading: the enemy of solar!
During the winter months, the sun is lower in the sky, a cast shadow tends to be much longer and has the ability to cast an incredibly long shadow which is, by all intents and purposes, the true enemy of a solar electric system. During the summer, the sun is higher up in the sky and shadows cast are not nearly as detrimental to solar energy production since shading is minimized.

So what?
I bet you're wondering where Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 comes into the mix, right? As it turns out, in San Diego this is the longest day of the year, which is exciting on two fronts: (1) Since the day is the longest of the year, we have the potential to receive the most light and, subsequently, generate the most amount of kW hours and (2) since June is a summer month, the sun is higher in the sky and shading worries are minimized due to "shorter" cast shadows.

The bottom line:

Over the course of the next six months, feel free to build the excitement right alongside me and the Cosmic Solar crew as we make light (pun intended) of the fact our days are getting longer and our potential to create more clean, solar electricity is upon us. Though we always like to look at solar production on an annual scale, you have to admit it's very exciting knowing we're moving into a time of year where the available amount of light becomes more present, each and every day.

So the next time you're sitting down to a nice meal with a friend and the conversation trails off with a characteristic, blank stare into the sky, feel free to assume your good friend is like me and is celebrating the fact every second allows us to be closer to that glorious day, Tuesday, June 19th, 2012. Press onward, my friends.

Pey Shadzi
Operations Manager at Cosmic Solar

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