The Solar Panel you fit to your car can have a very significant effect on performance. In fact it could easily mean the difference between winning and losing. Let me explain. I am not thinking about the power output of the panel as all the modeling done indicates that with the ballasting formulas now in use there is virtually no performance difference between a low wattage and high wattage panel as long as they are fitted to a “GOOD” car. I am referring the characteristics of the panel.
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To understand this, consider the ballasting formula prior to 2011. Ballast was calculated based on the panel power measured at ½ Sun and doubled. This means that any panel with a low Fill Factor FF (or if you prefer Form Factor as used in some texts), due primarily to high series resistance will end up carrying ballast weight for which there is no actual power available from the panel.
75 Conversely a panel with low FF due primarily to low parallel resistance can in fact be advantaged. I must point out here that we have only seen a few panels like this at scrutineering for power testing. I do have such a panel in my possession, its test results are included in the table below.
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Examination of the table below will hopefully clarify this for you. The table shows light box test results of panel test, the column ‘Ballast With No Panel Power’ shows the ballast weight carried (calculated from the 2010 formula) for which there is no actual power produced by the panel. This is because ballast is calculated on power taken at 50% Sun and doubled.