Summary: A solar PV power plant generates between 3-5 kWh (units) per kW per day, depending on the solar radiation at the location.
How much electricity can a solar power plant generate? What factors does this generation depend on?
Output of a solar power plant depends on multiple aspects – but mainly on the capacity of the solar panels, solar panel efficiency and the amount of sunlight available at the location.
Per kW, a solar PV power plant generates between 3-5 kWh (units) per day, the lower limit for regions with poor sunlight and the upper limit for regions with plentiful sunlight.
Output of a solar power plant depends on multiple aspects – the prominent factors are the capacity of the solar panels, solar panel efficiency, and the amount of sunlight available at the location.
One kW of solar panels requires between 100 sqft -150 sqft depending on the type of cells you use (crystalline cells requires 100 sqft while thin film cells would require about 150 sqft). Thus, about 100 sqft of land (rooftop or on the ground) can generate about 4 units of electricity through solar panels.
Put differently, to get 1 unit of electricity from solar in a day, you will require about 25 sqft of space.
Questions from the curious cat
How does the output of a solar power plant vary from region to region?
Well, you know what, the output in one region could be quite different from the output in another. Most regions in Germany, for instance, have DNI less than 4 kWh/m2/day, while there are parts of Middle East or Africa that have DNI of upto 7 kWh/m2/day. As the amount of electricity output from solar panels is directly proportional to DNI, one can expect the amount of electricity generated from solar power plants in Middle East or Africa (or sunny California or Arizona) to be 50-70% higher than that from Germany.
Funny, because Germany has the world’s largest amount of solar PV installation by capacity, as of 2014. Just imagine what other countries with better DNI could do.
Which regions in the world have the highest solar power output? Lowest?
Please refer to the post on DNI for a detailed answer to this question.
Is the output directly proportional to DNI?
To a large extent, solar power output is directly proportional to DNI
By how much do trackers increase the output from a solar power plant?
Trackers can increase the output from a solar power plant by up to 30%. Single axis trackers can increase it by 15-20%, while dual axis trackers could increase it by 30%.
Does a 1 MW of thin film solar power plant generate a different output from that from crystalline solar modules?
Well, no. 1 MW of any type of solar panel will generate the same amount of output, regardless of its efficiency.
Surprised? You would have heard that some cells are more efficient than others, and so you would naturally expect higher efficiency solar cells of the same capacity to generate more electricity than lower efficiency ones.
In the solar PV industry, efficiency needs to be viewed a bit differently, in the context of capacity. Without getting into that, we will just answer your question: 1 MW of any type of cell will generate the same amount of electricity in a given location; however, the area required for a 1 MW of higher efficiency panels will be less than the area required for lower efficiency panels.
Put another way, if you have a limited rooftop area, you can generate more electricity from the use of high efficiency solar cells than from low efficiency cells. However, note that this is because you accommodated more kW (or MW) of higher efficiency solar cells.
Some useful videos for you
Energy output of three types of solar panels – monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film solar panels
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