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Coordinates Basics, How to Align Solar Panels Toward the Sun


Part One

Now that you have a solar panel, the next step is to find the best way to align you panel to optimize the sun light to generate electricity, they are automatic sun trackers but they are not cheap, if you budget is limited you can optimize your panel orientation by following these simple steps.

Before we enter in details is better to quickly review some basic concepts about global coordinates.

1- The earth has two movements, one is the rotation around its own vertical axis responsible for the nights and days, and the other one is the rotation around the sun that make possible the four season in one year, in 365 days and 6 hours. Every four years a bisiest year is completed with the adding  6 hours in each year to complete a year with 366 days.

2- The earth rotation axis is tilted by 23o, 27’ or twenty three degrees and twenty seven minutes in relation to its  translation movement path line.











3- The earth is divided vertically in two equal hemispheres, north and south by a imaginary line called the equator.

4- The earth rotation axis is tilted in relation to the incident path of the sun light.

5- The earth translation movement around the sun is slightly elliptic

6- The earth shape is not a perfect sphere is elliptic wider in the equator

6- For the purpose of establishing a system to locate a geographic place in the earth a coordinates system was created. The Greenwich as the zero reference line or Prime Meridian was agreed in 1884 in the United States in the hosted International Meridian Conference.

  7- The horizontal lines are called the latitude lines or “Parallel lateral displacement lines” and   normally is represented  by the Greek letter phi “Ø”.  


















9- The vertical lines are called the longitude lines or  “Meridian vertical displacement lines”. The reference meridian is the Greenwich meridian or 0o meridian and is located near the Royal Observatory near London England. From the Greenwich meridian also called Prime Meridian all other meridian are referenced in degrees. Locations on the east from this meridian are in the eastern hemisphere, location on the west from this meridian are in the western hemisphere. The most common symbol to represent the meridians is the Greek letter lambda “ג”. The meridians lines are referenced to Greenwich Prime Meridian by degrees.

10- The geographical coordinates are set in angular degrees, each complete circle around the earth is composed of 360 degrees and each degree is divided in 60 minutes and each minute in 60 seconds,       

11- Two major horizontal circles above and below the equator at + 23o,26’,16” named Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn at -23o,26’,16” defines the earth band that receives most of the sun light radiation.

12- The tropics are the maximum distant latitudes north and south from the equator where the the sunlight hit the earth fully vertically, on the June solstice (June 21 to 22) the sunlight is stronger in the northern hemisphere, but on the December solstice (Dec 22 to 23) the sunlight is stronger in the Tropic of Capricorn.


Part two continue on next page >>











23o, 27’

Earth Rotation Axis

Sun Light

Translation Movement Around the Sun


Longitude Lines are the vertical lines or meridians, the reference meridian is the Greenwich Meridian in England also called the Prime Meridian

Latitude lines are the horizontal lines, also called parallels because they are parallel to the equator, the distance from the Equator is given in degrees.  

Tropic of Cancer










0o  Longitude = Greenwich Meridian


90o East

180o East

90o West

Coordinates in Cylindrical Projection

Tropic of Capricorn

North Pole

South Pole