Did you know the sun produces enough energy in one hour to power every home on earth for an entire year? And yet, despite its abundance and reliability, solar panel owners often struggle to generate enough power. One of the biggest questions solar system owners ask is, do solar panels work in the shade? Solar panel shading is one of the most common problems with installing solar panels. So this blog will comprehensively discuss how it happens and how you can avoid it.
What Are Solar Shading Losses?
Solar shading is the energy loss that emanates from the obstructions blocking the sun’s rays. Obstructions such as trees and utility poles are the primary causes.
Shading on solar panels causes them to produce less energy than they otherwise would. The amount of lost energy depends on the sun’s angle relative to your solar panels and what’s blocking it.
To calculate the losses the solar panel shading causes, subtract the energy generated from the optimal solar panel generation ability. This will allow you to know how much power you lose due to shading.
How Does Solar Panel Shading work?
Do solar panels work in shades? The answer to this question lies in analyzing how solar shading works. Shade affects solar panels by reducing the amount of power they can generate. When a shadow falls across a solar panel, it reduces the energy output by blocking some light rays from reaching the solar panels.
Solar panel installed on a roof under a tree.
The amount of power your solar panels produce will decrease as shade increases. This will have an impact on how much energy your solar system produces. Solar panel shading is particularly evident when connected in a parallel string format. PV panels in this traditional format generate as much power as the lowest-producing panel. 60% shade of one solar panel will mean that solar panels will perform at 40% efficiency.
How to check for solar shading
- Physically checking if trees or buildings are casting their shadows onto your panels. While this may be physically taxing, it is the simplest way to keep tabs on your panels. You will be able to maintain the panels and extend their lifespan.
- Using technology to estimate the sunlight your panels will get after considering all factors. Some apps will account for shading and orientation when calculating the potential for solar power in your home. This technology puts control of your solar panels in your hands.
- You can use a solar panel system with an integrated monitoring program to keep track of your system’s performance. A monitoring system will give you real-time data on your panels’ performance. These programs will allow you to troubleshoot potential problems and analyze your panels’ performance over time.
What Factors can Cause Solar Shading?
The most common cause of solar shading is the angle at which sunlight strikes your solar panels and other objects that shade them. This includes buildings, trees, and even the shape of your house. Solar panel structures can shade themselves when improperly installed.
Other factors that can cause shading include the time of day, changes in seasons, and whether or if your solar panel has a cooling system attached.
Solar Panel Shading Solutions
Solar panels are a huge investment; you must get the most out of them. Here are some tips to help you get around the bother of solar panel shading and maximize your solar power output.
- Maintaining the PV panels.
Cleaning solar panels
Solar panels need the commitment to keep their performance at an optimal level. Regular cleaning will reduce the shading of solar panels and expose the maximum number of solar cells to sunlight. Similarly, clearing snow and ice from the PV panels will increase your power output, especially in these seasons when there’s little sunlight.
Shifting to a Parallel Solar Panel Arrangement
Arranging your solar panels in parallel will reduce the effect of shading on your power generation. A shaded solar panel on a parallel-arranged system will not affect the power production rate of other panels. This may mean you have to use slightly smaller modules, but it’s better than losing all the power from that portion of your array altogether. Striking a balance between the space separating the panels and optimizing on space is paramount to avoiding shading panels.
Generally, typical solar panels will not work for you because of the shading effect. The best solar panel for a shaded area are those that have microinverters. These are minuscule inverters fixed under individual solar panels. Besides, this allows DC power conversion to AC at each panel. Unlike a solar system with traditional inverters, which only produce as much power as the lowest-producing panel, this modern design allows all panels to work at their optimal level. Each cell will have a special power production rate based on its access to sunlight.
Solar panels are installed on a tracker.
Mounting panels on axis trackers
You could also use axis trackers, which adjust the position of your solar panels to face where the sunlight is brightest. Scientists developed the axis tracker based on a feature observed in sunflowers. These flowers’ follow’ the sun from east to west, ensuring they have a full day’s sunlight.
However, you can only use axis trackers on solar panels fixed on flexible structures. You have the choice of two types of solar trackers. Single-axis trackers turn the panels from east to west following the sun’s trajectory. Dual-axis trackers are more complex as they can track the sunlight in three dimensions. You will not need to adjust it in any season.
The Effects of Shading on solar panels
Solar panel shading is one of the causes of poor power generation from a solar system. Shading on solar panels has long-term effects that reduce the power production ability of your solar power system. Partially shaded solar panels produce less power than they should at optimal levels. A 6kW solar panel may only make half of that power if 50% of the solar panel is under a shade. Moreover, a partially shaded solar panel overworks the cells that have access to sunlight. These cells have a shorter lifespan, which reduces the time your solar panel generates power.
Solar panels can operate even in the presence of some shade. They are not as effective as in the optimal sunshine, but they can still provide significant electricity and offset your energy cost. If trees or buildings surround your property, this article may have given you some helpful information on dealing with shading issues. We hope this helps you deal with cases of solar shading to maximize your solar power generation.