Do solar panels need direct sunlight? While direct sunlight is the best for optimal production, solar panels are able to still produce energy in shaded areas. Whether it’s a tall building or a winter storm, solar panels should still have the capacity to generate power. If you’re really curious about your home’s ability to harness the most sunlight, contact a Solar Energy Specialist for a free solar consultation.
The truth is, temperatures have been getting hotter and hotter every year. So, it makes sense that people are wondering about the correlation between the weather and the efficiency of their solar panels. Let’s take a look at a few different weather scenarios and learn why solar panels work best in direct sunlight.
How do solar panels work?
Before we get into the nitty gritty, you may be curious about how solar panels work. You can reference this knowledge whenever you’re wondering about how well solar panels are able to generate power.
Basically, solar panels work by harnessing sunlight and converting it into energy. When the sun shines in the direction of your solar panels, the solar cells are hit by the sun’s photons. Inside the solar cells are electrons. When the photons and electrons meet, they flow through an electrical current.
All of that movement generates clean and abundant electricity for your home. Did you know that the sun actually sends enough photons to Earth every hour to power the whole world for a year? And you just need it to run your TV!
For more information, here’s a blog to explain it better. Now, let’s get into the main topic.
Do solar panels need direct sunlight?
Direct sunlight is great for solar panels to capture most of the good stuff, but they don’t necessarily need it. In reality, shade could be a very real thing — tall buildings, tall trees and even inclement weather can get in the way of the sun. But there’s good news!
As mentioned above, the way solar panels work is by capturing sunlight, but that means both directly and indirectly. Indirect sunlight, or scattered sunlight, will still contain photons, which can be absorbed into solar panels. When direct sunlight is unavailable, solar panels can use indirect sunlight to generate electricity. But this might bring on questions about efficiency. Let’s tackle those.
How does shade reduce solar panel efficiency?
Shade could prevent access to sunlight and that could reduce solar panel efficiency. In ideal conditions, solar panels are able to absorb at least 1 kilowatt (kW) of sunlight for every square meter of panel. For solar panels to run their best, they need at least four peak sunlight hours. Learn more about peak sun hours here.
The issue with shade is that it covers your solar cells, hindering them from generating at full capacity. The great thing about rooftop solar panels is that even if part of the solar cell is covered, the rest of the solar panel will still be operational, but more on that later.
To simplify things a bit, contact a Solar Energy Specialist to figure out how much shade your roof receives and if your roof could be eligible for solar energy.
How does weather affect solar panel efficiency?
Clouds, snow and even rain could impact how much direct and indirect sunlight your solar panels receive. Subsequently, this could potentially reduce their solar power production.
It comes down to the brand. Good quality solar panels from a trusted brand should be able to withstand inclement weather. However, the weather does impact solar panel efficiency, because it inhibits access to direct sunlight.
Let’s go through some different weather conditions.
Do solar panels work on cloudy days?
Yes, solar panels work on cloudy days. The catch is that they don’t work as efficiently. Solar panels will generate about 10-25% of their peak power output on a cloudy day. Factors such as the thickness of the clouds, how severe the rain is or how dark it gets will impact this estimation. Although solar panels might not work as efficiently on cloudy days, it could still be enough for your home, depending on your home energy goals. For a closer look, check out our blog.
Do solar panels work in the rain?
Solar panels can work in the rain, but the real concern is clouds. Clouds have the ability to hinder sunlight from reaching your solar panels. This could decrease a solar panel system’s output by 75% to 90%.
Rainfall itself could actually benefit solar panel performance. Dust can cause a 50% loss in solar panel efficiency. So, in areas where dust and debris build-up is common, a nice dose of rain can clean your panels.
Can solar panels withstand hail and snow?
Although solar panels are made up of several different materials, glass being one of them, tons of research has been done to make sure they can withstand the elements.
In fact, the standard test for hail damage on solar panels is to launch multiple golf-ball-sized ice balls at the glass at seventy miles per hour. That means solar panel glass is durable enough to withstand extreme weather on rooftops. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has even concluded that “The probability of [solar] system damage because of hail is below 0.05%.”
So, do solar panels need direct sunlight?
Now that your weather concerns have been alleviated, let’s remember that solar panels need as much direct sunlight as possible. However, if you’re a homeowner who lives in a state with fewer sunny days throughout the year, solar panels can still be a great option for you.
Your best bet is to explore your options with a Solar Energy Specialist to see if your home is a perfect fit for solar during a free solar consultation.
How Microinverters Reduce Shading
The technology used in your solar panels matters. Microinverters are cutting-edge solar panel technology that reduces the impact of weather or shading. Take the Enphase IQ8 Series, for instance.
When a solar panel has a set of individual microinverters, a bit of shading doesn’t take your whole panel out. In the event that one panel isn’t getting direct sunlight, the rest of the panel will still be functional because each panel in the array will have its own microinverter.
The Battery Storage Solution to Indirect Sunlight
Even more good news! A solar battery backs up your electricity! When you want to power your home through the night, a battery storage system is a great addition to your solar system.
A solar battery backup offers resiliency for your solar generation by storing the energy your panels have generated.
Learn more about the perks of going solar and find out how the sun can shine down on your budget today!