Information and Resources

Arkansas' Solar Resource

Flat-Plate Collector

Flat-plate solar systems are, simply put, flat panels that collect sunlight and convert it to either electricity or heat. These technologies include photovoltaic (PV) arrays and solar water heaters. The map to the right shows how much solar radiation reaches a flat-plate collector which is installed in a tilted position, for example, on a roof. A general rule of thumb is that a flat-plate collector gets the most sun if it is tilted towards the south at an angle equal to the latitude of the location.

What does the map mean? Mainly, it means that, for flat-plate collectors, Arkansas has significant solar resources and could effectively use these types of technologies. Let's say you installed a PV array with a collector area equal to the size of a football field. In one of your state's better locations, you would produce around 970,000 kWh per year. This is enough to power 97.3 average homes.

Because of their simplicity, flat-plate collectors are often used for residential and commercial building applications. They can also be used in large arrays for utility applications.

Solar Concentrator

Solar concentrators are typically mounted on tracking systems in order to always face the sun. This allows these collectors to capture the maximum amount of direct solar rays. The solar resource for concentrators varies much more across the United States than the flat-plate solar resource. Most northern states cannot use solar concentrators effectively, but this resource is even greater than the flat-plate resource in some areas of the southwestern United States.

The map to the right shows that, for concentrating collectors, Arkansas could pursue some types of technologies, but large-scale thermal electricity systems are not effective with this resource. How much power would a concentrating system produce? Let's look at a current PV solar concentrator system with a collector area of 200,000 square meters — a system that would cover roughly 200 acres. In the state's best areas, this system could produce about 35,807,000 kWh per year — enough to power 3,593.3 homes.

Because these systems require tracking mechanisms, solar concentrators are generally used for large-scale applications such as utility or industrial use. But they can also be used in small-scale applications, including remote power applications.

For more maps and resources to help get you started in determining if a solar system is right for you visit http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

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