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How Does Shade Affect Solar Panels? | All You Need To Know

How Does Shade Affect Solar Panels

Since you’re here, I’m assuming you know that installing solar panels can potentially save you thousands of money but you’re also worried about your roof’s shading conditions. Or, more specifically, how does shade affect solar panels?

The short answer is that shade reduces the power output of your solar system because it’s not receiving as much sunlight as it should. How much depends on multiple factors but, in some cases, the reduction can be as much as over 50%.

Sounds drastic, doesn’t it? Luckily, there are ways around the most common shading problems. I will be discussing them today as well as a few other related topics listed below. Let’s dive in!

The effect of shading on solar panels

To understand the effect of shade cast on your solar panels, you first have to understand how PV modules work in the first place. We discuss this deeper in another article but, in a nutshell, panels have solar cells. Sunlight excites the electrons within the solar cell which, in turn, generates electricity.

That being said, a shaded cell does not have the raw materials it needs to produce electricity, thus resulting in a lower output.

As previously mentioned, power loss from shading on panels can go over 50%, depending on how much of your solar array is shaded.

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What happens if one solar panel is shaded?

Speaking of solar arrays, most solar systems in Australia are set up in parallel and connected to a string inverter. The advantage of being in a “string” is that it’s easier to install and therefore cheaper, but it also means that one shaded panel reduces the power production of the whole system.

In a way, it’s kind of like driving on the highway. If one car slows down, everyone behind that car drives slower, too. Similarly, one shaded PV module can disrupt the current flowing through your entire string.

This brings us to the next section.

Solutions: How to avoid shading on solar panels

How To Avoid Shading On Solar Panels
An illustration showing some solutions to avoid shading on solar panels.

Trim the trees

If branches from tall trees are the only things that cast shade on your solar power system, consider trimming them down. Some homeowners even go so far as to slice or uproot entire trees but, naturally, that choice is yours to make.

Doing so eliminates shade on your solar system, thus maximizing its capacity to generate solar power.

Change where you install your solar array

Before installation, have your installer conduct a shading analysis to see where it’s best to install your solar array. It shouldn’t take long nor should it cost you anything extra.

This way, if the north side of your roof isn’t a good option, you’ll know if east or west are viable. Your installer might even recommend ground-mounted PV panels, or maybe even have them on your garage.

Recommended: What direction should panels face?

Use micro inverters or power optimisers

Micro inverters and power optimisers are different types of inverters used in residential solar power systems.

Unlike their more commonly used cousin, the string inverter, both of these options allow for each solar panel to operate independently. This way, if one panel is partially shaded, it doesn’t affect the output of the entire system.

The caveat is that both of these inverter types will increase the cost of installing your solar power system. Why? Because both of these options require installing inverters to individual PV modules, thus making the installation more complicated.

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FAQs:

How much does shade affect solar panels?

Shading solar panels can reduce their DC power output by up to 50+%. Yes, the drop can be that drastic. To take things even further, it only takes shade to a single solar cell to have that effect. So, be sure to ask your solar installer about shading solutions.

Does shade damage solar panels?

Not right away, no, but eventually, shade could potentially damage your solar panels. Shaded cells not only reduce the efficiency and maximum power generated by your system, it could also cause the unshaded modules to work overtime.

What solar panels work best in the shade?

Solar panels fitted with micro inverters or power optimisers work best in the shade. Unlike the more common string inverter, both these inverters allow for individual panels to operate on their own so their shading issues don’t affect the entire system.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, solar panel shading can drastically reduce the electricity output of your entire solar panel system, especially in systems that use string inverters.

Luckily, there are numerous solutions. For one, you can always choose to trim down the tree branches that cast shade on your PV system. If shading is unavoidable, micro inverters and power optimisers are also great solutions.

That being said, we have a network of pre-vetted solar installers ready to help you out. Whenever you’re ready, we can get you 3 FREE quotes from them right away.