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In today's world, environmental consciousness has become one of the main topics that are at the forefront of our minds. We have experienced record-breaking summer, hurricane, and winter seasons.
That is why it has become more important to see how we can harness renewable energy sources. And, one way of doing that is through solar panels. This Invention stores and converts sunlight into electricity, and has emerged as a frontrunner in this endeavor.
One of the things that people would always ask first upon seeing solar panels is —--- do they work even if there’s no direct sunlight?
With that question in mind, this blog further looks into the world of solar panels, exploring their inner workings, knowing their efficiency factors, looking at things to consider when installing them, and determining if they work with no direct sunlight.
Understanding Solar Panel Technology
Did you know that the idea of harnessing the power of the sun as energy isn’t a recent thing? Leonardo da Vinci predicted that solar energy might become a reality back in the 15th century. He even designed a solar power system to heat water.
Modern-day solar panels rely on the photovoltaic cell, a semiconductor material that absorbs sunlight and converts it into direct current (DC) electricity. When multiple photovoltaic cells are connected, they form a solar module, capable of generating a higher amount of electricity. Solar panels, composed of an array of solar modules, harness the power of the sun to produce electricity that can be utilized for various purposes.
There are different kinds of solar panels depending on the number of silicon crystals used to make them. You can further look into them in this post.
So Do Solar Panels Need Direct Sunlight?
No, solar panels don’t need direct sunlight for it to work. While they work best when hit by direct sunlight, they can work during a cloudy day and under the shade. This is possible thanks to the fact that photons (particles of light) are still available even if it’s cloudy. To get the most out of solar panels, it is recommended that they should at least receive four hours of direct sunlight each day.
They can still work even when it’s snowing lightly. A heavy snowfall, on the other hand, may diminish the output performance of the solar panels. But, they are great at shedding snow so this won’t be much of a problem.
Take note, they could even perform better during cold temperatures as they won't easily overheat.
The Three Factors Affecting Solar Panel Efficiency When Under the Shade
Three main factors determine how big the impact of shade is when it comes to solar panel efficiency. These are:
- Time - As we’re aware, the longer the panels are under the shade, the less electricity production is likely going to be. As stated above, it is recommended that solar panels are directly exposed to the sun for at least four hours each day.
- Technology - Newer solar panels of today use half-cut photovoltaic cell technology which lessens the impact of partial shade, unlike standard solar panels that don't use half-cut PV cells.
- Inverter Type - To power homes and businesses, solar inverters are responsible for turning the captured DC (direct current) electricity by your solar panels into AC (alternative current) electricity.
And, two of the most commonly used inverters are microinverters and string inverters. The difference between the two is how the shade affects the overall electricity output of the power system. With microinverters, if the shade is on one panel only, then that effect will only be for that panel. This meant less impact on the system’s overall performance. But with the string inverter, the shade on one panel is going to affect the entire system’s electricity output.
But don’t fret too much. A good solar panel system has solar batteries that work as a way to store the excess captured energy during bright and sunny days. You’ll still have enough energy even during cloudy and rainy days.
Other factors that affect Solar Panel Efficiency
Besides the things that have already been discussed above, other factors that affect solar panel efficiency are:
- Age - Solar panels have a life expectancy of more than 20 years. And, the effects of wear and tear could affect its efficiency as they age.
- Maintenance - While they aren’t demanding when it comes to maintenance, it is important to get them regularly checked by experts to make sure that they are always in top-notch form. Cleaning the surface regularly of any obstructions also helps in keeping them maintained.
- Temperature - Solar panels love sunlight but they are not huge fans of excessive heat. Extreme temperatures can reduce their performance and lifespan.
- Operations - Regular usage can reduce the efficiency and lifespan of solar panels.
Things to Do Before Installing Solar Panels to Avoid Shading Problems
To minimize the effects of shading and to experience all the advantages solar panels have to offer, here is a list of things to do:
- Yard Work - Trim back any branches and stems that may block the panel’s exposure to sunlight.
- Think about the location - You can either install them on your roof or on the ground. If you install them on the ground you can use a mount that can track where the sun’s ray is currently at.
- Consider Solar Easement - Sometimes hindrances aren’t avoidable. Consider using solar easements to ensure that you’re able to get access to sunlight for your solar panels. Check with your state and local authorities about solar easements.
- Have a smart PV system - In cases where shading is unavoidable, you may install a smart module solution that should allow each panel to work at its fullest capacity.
- Make a plan - This is the basis of all things written above. It is important to have a plan to make sure that you get your money’s worth not just when installing your solar panels but throughout their lifespan.
Solar panels don’t need direct sunlight all the time for it to work. They can still generate electricity even if they have an obstructed path. All they need is at least four hours of exposure to direct sunlight for them to reach their peak performance daily.
So, if you’re thinking about installing solar panels, take note of where you’re going to place them. Install them where they can have high exposure and have accessibility to sunlight.
Also, be sure to do your research and get quotes from multiple installers. With careful planning, you can make the most of solar power and enjoy the benefits of clean, renewable energy.
* We want to give credit where credit is due. Professional writer, Cris Ilao, contributed research and content to this blog titled: How Many Watts Does a Well Pump Use Thank you, Cris, for your contributions!