As mentioned on the Solar Panel System FAQs page and Home page, standard 60-cell solar panels themselves have a surface area of approximately 17.5 square feet (65" x 39"), and each panel produces between 270-400 watts depending on the brand. For consistency, we will use an average of 300 watts/solar panel in the information and examples below. The 300 watt production of power represent kilowatt hours (kWh), which means that if there is direct sunlight on the solar panel for one hour, that solar panel makes 300 watts of power. Two hours of direct sunlight makes 600 watts or power, three hours of direct sunlight makes 900 watts of power, etc. This is under ideal conditions of no clouds, no obstructions, and having the sun shining directly on the panel.


    Below there are two graphs from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showing the approximate amount of direct sunlight we can expect in southwest Iowa on a yearly average (picture on the left) and at its peak in June (picture on the right). In the examples below this section we will use an average of 5 hours of direct sunlight per day (even though May-August Iowa averages 6+ hours/day) to provide the best estimates, but each home and business can vary depending upon their specific roof angle, obstructions, and angle of the solar panels themselves. The affiliated contractors of Loess Hills Solar Solutions will do a full analysis of your specific situation.

    Council Bluffs Iowa solar energy
    Council Bluffs Iowa solar panel energy

    Calculating your daily energy usage is actually as simple as looking at your monthly electric bill section under "monthly kWh usage." It will show a cumulative figure of how many kilowatt hours of energy you used in the whole month to power your home or business. You might see a figure like 1200 kWh, and although there are multiple ways to do the math on this, the most accurate way to calculate your daily solar panel energy requirements is to add your monthly kWh usage for the whole year and divide it by 365 to get kWh per day. Please see the example below:


    January: 1300 kWh

    February: 1250 kWh

    March: 1225 kWh

    April: 1300 kWh

    May: 1350 kWh

    June: 1700 kWh

    July: 1850 kWh

    August: 1800 kWh

    September: 1725 kWh

    October: 1525 kWh

    November: 1450 kWh

    December: 1350 kWh


    The yearly kWh equals 17,825, so after dividing that figure by 365 days, the average kWh usage per day is 48.8 kWh.

    Knowing the Council Bluffs Iowa area averages about 5 hours of usable sunlight per day, we can now figure out what size of solar panel system we need by dividing 48.8 by 5, which tells us our solar panel system must be at least 9.76 kW, 9760 watts. This figure tells us we would need a solar panel system where all the solar panels combined produce 9760 watts/hour of sunlight

    Last step, we need to figure out how many solar panels we need to create a solar panel system capable of producing 9760 watts per hour of sunlight. We established earlier each solar panel produces 300 watts/hour, so that last equation is to take 9760 divided by 300 watts to give us an answer of 33 solar panels to supply all the power needs for your home or business. Contact us today to set up a free consultation with a solar contractor to discuss the specific solar power needs for your home or business. Check out the excellent solar power resources below, including a Council Bluffs energy use calculator, Council Bluffs solar savings calculator, and a Council Bluffs solar energy production calculator

    --Click here for an energy use calculator of typical household appliances and electronics

    --Click here for a solar savings calculator from Google Project Sunroof to see how quickly you can eliminate your current electric bill

    --Click here for information from PVWatts of the solar energy potential in your specific southwest Iowa or southeastern Nebraska area