Do solar panels work in the shade?

Fast read

Shading and dirt are major obstacles to efficient energy production from solar systems. Even if only a tiny portion of the array is affected. The main problem with shading and dirt occurs when a solar system uses string inverters. This is caused by the efficiency of the whole string in an array being affected when one panel is affected.

To avoid this problem, splitting the array into multiple strings or using microinverters is recommended. In addition, a good solar installer will perform a shading analysis during the site inspection to evaluate potential obstacles, such as buildings or trees.

To avoid shading and dirt issues. Consider using a local, quality installer, micro-inverters or optimisers, and high-quality solar panels that limit shading loss to the shaded area.

I have a lot of shade on my roof. Will this affect my solar panel’s performance?

Regarding efficient energy production from your solar panel system, dirt and shading are your biggest enemies. Even if only a tiny portion of your solar array is affected. The effect on your system’s energy production can be considered quite impactful, for shading specifically. If it occurs outside your significant energy production hours. Usually 9 am to 3 pm, the effect is considered much less. 

The main issue with shading and dirt on your panels arises when your solar system has a conventional string inverter. This is because when the efficiency of one panel is affected, the efficiency of the whole array is affected. This is because the panels need to all run on the same voltage. One of the main ways to avoid this problem is to split your array into multiple strings or have microinverters instead. This can be explored in our article string inverters vs micro inverters

What types of shade will affect my panels?

Since shading and dirt are prominent threats to your solar panel system’s energy production, they become vital to the design process. During your site inspection, your solar installer must perform a shading analysis to evaluate potential obstacles such as more significant buildings or trees. First, let’s look at the different types of solar panel shading that can occur, of course, one being caused by dirt:

  • Temporary shading – this is the shading that is caused by dirt, bird poo or fallen leaves;
  • Self-shading – this can be caused if the tilt of your panels is not optimised and the racking of the row in front shades the one behind in the early morning or late afternoon;
  • Shading from a location – this is the shading that is caused by the site of the panels, e.g. from nearby other homes or nearby vegetation; 
  • Shading from buildings – this is colouring that is caused by structures and is known as direct shading. Examples of items that can cause this shading are satellite dishes, chimneys, antennas etc.
Shade over the top of Panels
Avoiding shading problems is reduced by higher quality panels and more diligent solar installation

How can a solar system owner avoid these issues?

There are many ways to avoid these problems and ensure that your solar panel system produces the most energy possible. 

Firstly, make sure you go for a local quality installer. A sound installation company will be able to assess your shading risk and design the most efficient solar system that considers your surrounding environment if solar mapping is considered. As a result, the effects of solar shading can be reduced dramatically. 

Secondly, if shading can not be avoided and you can not locate the system on other parts of the block. You should consider installing microinverters or optimisers. This can somewhat reduce shading issues compared to when string inverters are used, where shading can affect the production of a whole solar string. However, when micro-inverters or power optimisers are used, shading affects just the panels that are being shaded. 

Go for quality panels

Finally, ensure you have quality solar panels installed on your roof. Although shading affects the energy production of your system, specific solar panels can ensure that shading loss is limited to just the shaded area. Those solar panels also perform better in lower-light situations. Thus, these higher-quality solar panels will produce more energy than standard lower-cost solar panels, even with some shading. 

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