When the space and resources are available, your best bet for maximum solar energy gathering is a panel system with sun tracking. This type of system tracks the sun's movement across the entire day, and even the entire year. This may cost you a little more at first, but the results in the end are worth it.
While solar panels can continue to work on days when it is not sunny, you should not have them installed if you live in an area that is cloudy most of the time. The amount of energy you save with them will not be worth the amount you paid for them.
Free Hot Water with DIY Solar Batch Water Heater Pt 2.
Your solar energy system needs to be exposed to the sun at all times. Most homeowners have their solar panels installed on their roof but you could also have some panels installed on your front lawn. Do not hesitate to cut a few trees to avoid shadows and have a professional help you determine the best place for your panels.