solar energy panels

Shade and solar panels – here’s what you need to know!

A solar array can drastically reduce your monthly energy bills by capturing the natural energy provided by the sun, and transforming it from DC to AC electricity to power household appliances. Whether you’re opting for a grid-tied, off-the-grid or hybrid solar array, your reliance on the national supplier will reduce and you’ll be paying less. However, it’s vital that you’re going with solar specialists for the installation. In terms of solar panel placement, shading can be detrimental to overall function. Here’s what you need to know.

What is in a solar array?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are made up of solar panels – the number of which will be determined by your energy requirements – which are then connected to an inverter. The solar array is divided into ‘strings’ of solar panels, with each string consisting of at least one panel but usually more. The panels capture the sun’s energy and convert it into DC (direct current) electricity, with the inverter then converting it to AC (alternating current) electricity for household use.

Types of shade on solar panels

The number and positioning of the solar panels will be determined by several factors, including your energy requirements, geographical location and amount of daily sunlight. The most likely position for solar panels is on the roof where they tend to receive maximum sunlight, however, shade is a concern for the installation. The amount of shade, as well, will impact the solar array efficacy.

–        Soft or partial shade

Nearby trees can be a source of partial shade on the solar panel system, as can clouds passing across the sky on certain days.

–        Hard sources

These are more permanent sources of shade such as high-rise buildings, chimneys, bird droppings or other debris landing on the solar array.

Impact of shade on solar panel function

Unfortunately, the impact of shade on the overall functioning of the solar system can be detrimental, with shade sometimes reducing the output of a string to zero while it is blocked from the sunlight. Depending on the technology being used in the solar panel, the shading of one cell can affect the entire string, but more modern, sophisticated designs have ways to overcome this.

How to minimise impact of shading on solar systems

If you’re looking at installing solar panels at your home or office space, then here are ways that you can avoid the impact of shading. Here’s how:

–        Map the location

When choosing the location of the solar panels, it’s best to use mapping tools that will let you see if shading is going to be a problem at any time. You will also have to consider the different seasons as the shade will change throughout the year. And, with solar lifespans extending beyond 25 years in some circumstances, you’ll also have to account for the growth of trees as well.

–        Types of cells

If you reside in a cloudy area, then you’re going to have to counteract the shading caused by clouds by opting for solar panels constructed from amorphous silicon solar cells. These are better at handling shade than crystalline silicon solar panels but they aren’t as efficient as the crystalline version. There is the option of the latest ‘super black’ solar cells, however these are still quite expensive.

–        MPP tracking

Maximum power point tracking (MPPT) can be found on certain string converters which can get the most energy out of a string of solar panels, even when they’re shaded. This can be done by adjusting the voltage to suit the inverter’s preferred input range.

–        Bypass diodes

This device within a module will let the current skip over the shaded regions. The higher current from the unshaded cell strings will flow around the shaded cell string so that you’re still getting maximum energy. A typical solar module will have three bypass diodes.

–        Module Level Power Electronics (MLPEs)

These are also devices which are attached to modules to increase their performance in shaded conditions. MLPEs include microinverters and DC optimisers.

Microinverters or power optimisers

These systems will optimise the power if your roof is near a shaded area. The devices will eliminate the need for strings, essentially allowing each panel to operate independently. This means your power retention is not disproportionately impacted if one or two panels are in shade.

DC optimisers

This will adjust the output voltage and current so that you’re able to maintain maximum power output without compromising the performance of other modules. This allows the shaded module to produce the same amount of electrical power without impact other modules.

–        Clean the solar panels

If you have a problem with birds, pollution or other debris, try to ensure that the solar panels are cleaned fairly regularly by spraying with a garden hose. If you need a more thorough cleaning, you might need to get in professionals to ensure the panels are not damaged.

When it comes to solar panel installation, it’s best to work with industry experts like JUP Solutions who can assess the amount of shade covering and the most convenient way to ensure you’re getting maximum energy output.

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