Many who are thinking about going solar want to know whether their panels will produce energy when there is cloud coverage or foliage. The short answer: kinda. Not all shade is created equal—panels obviously can’t produce energy when it’s nighttime and it’s the world blocking the sun, but it’s important to know what factors can affect the efficiency of your panels during daylight hours. Here are the top contributors to decreased efficiency and how to avoid them and maximize your solar production.
While great for hugs, trees are the most obvious offenders when we think about shading. There is a definite impact on energy production based on the amount of foliage in your specific area—especially in the early morning and evening hours when the sun is low. Additionally, you want to note at what points in the day trees cast shadows onto your roof in the areas you intend to place your panels. This could cause a conflict if you need a large part of your roof covered with panels when fully offsetting the cost of your energy bill. In some cases, trees may need to be removed in order to get the most out of your system.
Positioning your solar panels is key, as the top of a home is rarely a flat surface. There are often peaks in the roof that will cast shadows on other portions of it as the sun moves across the sky. Ask the engineering department of your solar provider if it’s possible to avoid or minimize shadows caused by multi-terraced roofing and chimneys.
The big question most new solar owners have is, “What happens on cloudy days?” This isn’t as large an issue as some might think. Clouds still allow an amount of sunlight to break through, although it isn’t the same as a clear day. Your system will still produce some energy during daylight hours and often times, with higher efficiency systems, the impact won’t cost you.
This one is a bit tricky because the expertise rests on your chosen installers. A trusted installer will know not to place panels too close to each other because, quite frankly, everything on a roof can cast a shadow. This is something that is a little less known to the general consumer but important nonetheless.
Yes, you are reading that correctly! Since the sun is required for your system to generate power, the effects of a solar eclipse are relevant—if only very rarely. For more information about the impact of solar eclipses, check out this post covering how energy utilities prepare for solar eclipses.
What About Efficiency?
How shade can affect your system’s ability to convert energy from the sun is dependent largely on what kind of inverter your system uses. String Inverters are the most commonly used and are considered your standard solar system inverter. A single string inverter will connect to several solar panels on a system; however, they only convert as much energy as the weakest panel in the chain. If you have your chimney or a tree blocking one panel in your system, then it will cause the entire system to wane. Microinverters, by comparison, are designated to every individual solar panel on your roof. That way, if one panel is blocked or goes dark, the rest still function at peak efficiency and provide energy regardless of the other panels.
For more information about solar panels or to find out how you can make the switch to clean energy, get in touch with the Riverside County solar installers at SunPower by Precis by dialing (951) 800-7926 today.