Cautions for Interpreting the Results

Weather variability
The monthly and yearly energy production are modeled using the PV system parameters you selected and weather data that are typical or representative of long-term averages. For reference, or comparison with local information, the solar radiation values modeled for the PV array are included in the performance results.

Because weather patterns vary from year-to-year, the values in the tables are better indicators of long-term performance than of performance for a specific month or year. PV performance is largely proportional to the amount of solar radiation received, which may vary from the long-term average by ± 30% for monthly values and ± 10% for yearly values. How the solar radiation might vary for your location may be evaluated by examining the tables in the Solar Radiation Data Manual for Flat-Plate and Concentrating Collectors (

For these variations and the uncertainties associated with the weather data and the model used to model the PV performance, future months and years may be encountered where the actual PV performance is less than or greater than the values shown in the table. The variations may be as much as 40% for individual months and up to 20% for individual years. Compared to long-term performance over many years, the values in the table are accurate to within 10% to 12%.

System design and operating conditions
If the default overall DC to AC derate factor is used, the energy values in the table will overestimate the actual energy production if nearby buildings, objects, or other PV modules and array structure shade the PV modules; if tracking mechanisms for one- and two-axis tracking systems do not keep the PV arrays at the optimum orientation with respect to the sun's position; if soiling or snow cover related losses exceed 5%; or if the system performance has degraded from new. (PV performance typically degrades 1% per year.) If any of these situations exist, an overall DC to AC derate factor should be used with PVWATTS that was calculated using system specific component derate factors for shading, sun-tracking, soiling, and age.

Module choice
The PV system size is derived from the nameplate DC power rating. The energy production values in the table are estimated using coefficients relevant to crystalline silicon PV systems, assuming common silicon module designs. Adjusting these coefficients for specific silicon products and/or for thin-film products may result in results varying by as much as ~10%. If the user’s goal is to differentiate performance of specific products, a module-specific calculation must be used.

Net-metering policy and/or customer use habits
The cost savings are determined as the product of the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) and the cost of electricity per kWh. These cost savings occur if the owner uses all the electricity produced by the PV system, or if the owner has a net-metering agreement with the utility. With net-metering, the utility bills the owner for the net electricity consumed. When electricity flows from the utility to the owner, the meter spins forward. When electricity flows from the PV system to the utility, the meter spins backwards.

If net-metering isn’t available and the PV system sends surplus electricity to the utility grid, the utility generally buys the electricity from the owner at a lower price than the owner pays the utility for electricity. In this case, the cost savings shown in the table should be reduced.

Besides the cost savings shown in the table, other benefits of PV systems include greater energy independence and a reduction in fossil fuel usage and air pollution. For commercial customers, additional cost savings may come from reducing demand charges. Homeowners can often include the cost of the PV system in their home mortgage as a way of accommodating the PV system’s initial cost.

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