Solar-Powered Driveway Gates
Solar-Powered Driveway Gates

Solar-powered driveway gates present an attractive option for many homeowners as they afford substantial savings in electrical costs. However, they are not suitable for all situations. Frequent operation depletes their batteries and they do not operate as efficiently in areas with poor sun reception. You should carefully examine whether you will benefit from this technology.

Operational Parameters

An ideal situation for these gates is found in a residence that requires a maximum of fifteen opening and closing operations per day, does not require an ancillary communications system, and which receives a high amount of sunlight.

If you live in the United States, please refer to Figure 1. Zone 1, shaded gray, receives the least amount of sunshine in the country, producing as little as 1,500 to approximately 5,400 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day (kwh/m2/d). Zone 2 receives a median amount of sunshine producing approximately 5,400 to 8,500 kwh/m2/d and Zone 3 receives the most sunshine in the country, producing as much 11,600 kwh/m2/d. Figure 1: US Solar Zones

Figure 1: US Solar Zones

These two variables heavily influence the efficiency of the system. The common factor between them is the battery. Higher quantities of sunlight charge the battery more and heavier usage from frequent operation and/or ancillary communications systems deplete the battery more. Thus, gates located in areas receiving less sunlight require larger solar panels as well as larger battery capacity to store a maximum amount of solar energy. Expectedly, larger system components are also more expensive. Choosing a solar-powered solution for your gate may also be preferable if you live in an area without possibility of connection to an electrical grid. In those cases, using a conventional electrical power source requires the usage of private generators, potentially far more costly.

System Optimization

You should try to maximize the amount of sunshine that your system receives during the day. If you live in a country located in the northern hemisphere, such as the United States, you should position your system so that the solar collection panels (see below) face south. This will maximize the amount of sunshine that the system receives during the hours of 10 A.M. and 2 P.M, the time of most intense sun.

Likewise, people who live in the southern hemisphere, in countries such as Australia, should position their systems so that the solar panels face north. You also need to tilt your panels to maximize sunlight reception. The higher the latitude, the more you will have to tilt your panels to maximize reception. In order to maximize sun reception most people who live in the contiguous United States (25 to 45 degrees latitude) add an additional ten degrees to their latitude to realize the correct tilt angle. For example, if you live at thirty degrees latitude your tilt angle would be forty degrees. However, seasonal declinations further optimize your reception. An average for the United States is 11.75 degrees more in winter and 11.75 less in summer.


Solar-energy systems operate on a principal of converting sunlight into electricity. During this physical process a solar cell, containing materials suited to conduct electrical current, absorbs sunlight. As the light changes their atomic structure, severing bonds between atomic nuclei and electrons. The system then conducts the electrons by an electrical circuit to a battery and thereby produces power. As each cell by itself does not produce enough power to power most applications, so up to forty cells may connected to form a solar panel, also known as a photo voltaic module. Approximately ten to twenty modules may be needed to power a single household.

Solar-powered systems may be connected to a larger electrical grid or power single applications as freestanding systems. The solar cell itself is simple in construction. Light penetrates a top layer of transparent material, to reach the cells. The rear of the cell is covered with a water and gas-proof polymer. These components are held together by encapsulating material and the overall cell is encased in an aluminum frame, which may be anodized. You should examine how performance of a solar panel is measured before buying. Peak watt measures energy output under under idealized conditions regarding light, air temperature, and cell temperature. Normal Operating Cell Temperature measures a cell's performance after exposure to a specific air temperature. Similarly, AM/PM measures a cell's performance based on the average quantity of sunlight received worldwide, together with ambient air temperature.