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How well do solar panels work in the shade?

Solar panels require direct sunlight exposure to generate electricity. If the sunlight is obstructed by trees, nearby structures, or any other obstructions, they can’t produce energy. We will explain how shade affects your solar panels and their energy production.

Sources of shade:

  • Trees are the most notable culprit for shade on solar panels. They can cause shading issues or even block out sunlight to your solar array. If your property is surrounded by trees, cutting and pruning trees around your solar panels can alleviate these issues.
  • Clouds can seem like the biggest problem during the day, they won’t completely block out your solar energy production. While they do block out the sun and create shade, sunlight still passes through them at a reduced amount. If you live in a cloudy area don’t let clouds deter you from going solar. Many countries that have cloudy weather still use solar, Germany for example produces large amounts of its power from solar power.
  • Other panels can also shade nearby panels. Although this will depend on the setup of your solar panels and how they are aligned. This more so tends to be an issue with ground installations compared to roof-mounted panels.
  • Your roof can also shade the solar panels they are on. This factor depends on the structure and layout of your roof, along with the time of day and the sun’s angle. If you have a chimney or dormer, it can block panels on your room during certain times of the day.

Will solar panels still generate power under shade?

Yes, solar panels will still produce power even under shade. Although their energy output will be less than their optimal amount. The effect of the shade would also depend on how much shade the panels are facing. In the case of shade from clouds, they will cut down your solar panels’ energy output by about half. Reduced power output will reduce your overall energy production and the efficiency of your panels.

How do I keep my solar panels efficient despite shade?

While shade is troubling for solar power production, it is bound to happen no matter how much effort you take into keeping them exposed to sunlight. Solar inverters are installed and connected to keep your solar panels running efficiently. The role of an inverter is mainly to convert the direct current (DC) energy your panel produces into alternating current (AC) that your home can use. Solar inverters can also keep your shaded solar panels efficient. Different inverters types respond differently to shade on your solar panels:

Solar Generation
  • String inverters are the most basic and common form of inverters. In a string inverter system, multiple panels will be connected to a single inverter. The result of this system is that all of your panels will operate at the power of your weakest panel. So if one panel is shaded, the entire array will produce the same amount as the shaded panel.
  • Micro-inverters are installed on each solar panel in a system. In this system, each panel operates and produces its power so there is no worry of an entire system being affected by a single shaded solar panel.
  • Power optimizers are similar to both string inverters and micro-inverters. They are individually mounted on each solar panel and condition the DC power that is sent down the line to a single string inverter. Power optimizers deal with any shade like a micro-inverter system. So an entire system isn’t affected harshly by a single shaded panel.

If your solar energy system gets partial shade throughout the day, we would recommend installing a solar energy system with micro-inverters or power optimizers. While these systems are pricier than a string inverter, they will keep producing power and saving you money down the line. If you would like to learn more about inverters, we have a detailed article explaining how they work in your solar energy system.

A solar energy system for you

If you want to transition to a solar energy system, but are worried about shade, we can help. We provide solar energy systems that are tailored to the needs of our customers. Our website also has a free online estimate tool that generates a personalized report for you from a simplified questionnaire. That report will contain the potential savings you can net, and the cost of a solar energy system installed on your property. You can also contact us directly via phone at +1 (602) 363-8919 or via email at Scott@elitesolarenergy.org for more information regarding solar energy for your property.