A common misconception about solar power is that solar panels need sun all the time in order to work and be worth the cost. While it seems like a logical conclusion, it’s not entirely true. Solar panels can still be used and work well in the shade.
Just because your home doesn’t receive direct sunlight everywhere does not mean that you can’t use solar power. In fact, with a well-planned setup, solar panels can still be efficient and produce a good amount of power.
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How Does Shade Affect Solar Power?
Shade of any kind, whether by trees or buildings, will reduce the amount of power your solar panels can produce. However, this does not mean they can’t still provide energy or aren’t worth the investment.
Solar panels work best and produce the most energy when exposed to direct sunlight, but they do not need direct sunlight all hours of the day. As long as they get about four to five hours per day, solar panels will be able to provide plenty of energy and work at their most efficient.
Ideally, your solar panels should have direct sunlight access from 10am until 3pm, as this is when the sun is most direct. If your panels receive partial shade during these hours, they’ll only be partially efficient. While they’ll still be able to provide energy as before, you’ll notice that it’s much less than in unshaded areas.
If your home or solar panels will be partially shaded, there are ways to mitigate the problem.
String Inverters vs Microinverters vs Power Optimizers
When you use solar panels, you’ll need a solar inverter that will convert the DC energy into AC energy that your home can then use. There are three types of inverters available on the market today: string inverters, microinverters, and power optimizers.
If your panels will be partially shaded, the type of inverter you choose will directly influence the efficiency of your solar panels.
String inverters are the simplest type of inverter and are the least efficient when it comes to shade. With a string inverter, all of your panels will connect to one inverter. This limits your entire system to the power of your weakest or most shaded panels.
If there’s shade on one panel with string inverters, all of your panels will operate at reduced efficiency. Even if all the other panels are exposed to direct sunlight, and it’s only part of one panel that’s affected by the shade, your entire row of panels will act as if they, too, are in the shade.
A system that uses microinverters will have one inverter connected to each panel. With this type of system, if one panel is shaded, only that panel will be affected. All the others will continue to function as normal and at full efficiency.
Power optimizers are a bit of a combination between string inverters and microinverters. They are used by each panel to condition the DC energy and send it to a single string inverter. This makes it so only panels that are in the shade operate at reduced capacity while panels in direct sunlight continue at 100%.
What’s Best For Me?
If you know your panels will be shaded for at least part of the day, investing in a system that uses microinverters or power optimizers is in your best interest. Although these systems are more expensive than string inverter systems, they’ll ensure that your panels operate as efficiently as they can and won’t limit the entire system.
Even if your home receives partial shade and your solar panels won’t have direct sunlight all day long, it’s still possible to benefit from solar power. There will always be dips in efficiency even when your panels are in direct sunlight, but shade affects this just a little more.
By investing in a better system and planning ahead, you can still equip your home with solar power and benefit from clean energy.