Solar energy has a number of advantages, especially if you are looking for a DIY solution. Solar panels generate electricity quietly and without any pollution or carbon emissions. Another advantage is that solar panels need very little ongoing maintenance. But that does not mean that solar panels are a cost-effective solution for everyone. You need to consider a number of things. One of the first things you need to do is estimating the solar energy potential where you live. Some places are much better suited for solar energy than others.
Most likely, you are looking at solar panels as a way of saving money. You investment money initially and hope to get a positive return on that investment thanks to lower energy bills. If your investment will pay off depends on a number of factors. One of them is the solar energy potential of your location.
Estimating solar energy potential is not easy. A lot of factors determine your solar energy potential. In the desert areas in New Mexico, solar panels generate a lot of electricity, thanks to a lot of sunshine and clean air. But estimating solar energy potential is much more complicated than looking at the number of average hours of sunshine. If everything else is equal, the further south you live the greater solar energy potential. But in the real world, everything else is seldom equal. Two places may be fairly close geographically but their potential for solar energy may be far from close.
Obviously sunlight is very important when estimating solar energy potential. The more sunshine, the better, this means that the closer to the equator you are, the more sunshine you get. This is because the days are longer. But sunshine is far from the only factor that determines how much electricity you can generate. In some places, you have a lot of rain, fog or smog. Needless to say, if your solar panels are covered by snow, they will not generate any electricity. Solar panels in the mountains are more efficient than down at sea level. Surprisingly, solar panels are more efficient in colder temperatures than warm temperatures. So a cold but sunny day is better than a hot and sunny day.
If all these factors are not enough, you also need to consider the intensity of the sunlight. When the sun is lower in the sky, the sun shine passes through more atmosphere which reduces its intensity. You already knew it but that means your solar panels produce less energy in winter than in summer.
You also need to mount your panels correctly, the optimal direction in the northern hemisphere is southwards. The optimal angle depends on your latitude. If you are going to put solar panels on your roof, you may not be able to get them placed in optimal direction. You can buy moving mounting racks that track the sun but many of them who have tried such solutions have been disappointed.
As you can see, estimating solar energy potential is quite complicated.