A Guide to Minimizing Solar Panel System Shading


Installing a solar panel system on your home or business is a great way to invest in clean, sustainable energy. While solar energy has a long way to go, this energy alternative still offers a lot of possibilities. For instance, solar power is a good option for those who want backup power available, or for those who want to use it as their primary energy source so they can get off the grid.

Naturally, one of the most common concerns with solar energy is that external factors like shade can limit the amount of power your solar panels generate. There is a degree of truth to this idea, as shade can be one of the most significant obstacles that you encounter when it comes to gathering solar power.

To help you understand more about shading and how it affects your solar panels, we here at BigBattery have compiled a guide to minimizing solar panel system shading. Explore how your solar panel system works, how shade impacts it, and what you can do to avoid shade-related problems.

How Solar Panels Work

Solar panels are essential components for generating solar energy, but how do these panels work? Many solar panels are large flat rectangles that have a glass covering, and they are typically installed on the ground or on top of a roof.

Every solar panel consists of several photovoltaic (PV) cells that are about six square inches in size and made from silicon or a similar material. These PV cells absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity by way of the photovoltaic effect. By grouping multiple PV cells together, manufacturers can then create large rectangular panels and utilize them for solar energy collection. The number of cells in each panel will vary depending on the panel’s size, but most commercial panels have either 32, 48, 60, 72, or 96 PV cells. A 72-cell panel is a common size for many residential rooftops.

Every solar panel has an efficiency rating; this rating calculates how much of the absorbed sunlight each panel can convert into usable electricity. Traditionally, a panel’s efficiency rating ranges between 15 percent and 25 percent, with around 20 percent being the average. The number of cells in the panel help measure that efficiency in wattage, with a 72-cell panel typically generating between 400 and 600 watts.

Different Types of Shading

While each solar panel has an established wattage and efficiency rating, there are many factors that can negatively impact the panel’s total output. One such factor is shading, which refers to physical obstructions that cover your solar panel and prevent it from gathering as much sunlight as it may otherwise be able to.

There are two main types of shading: dynamic and static. Dynamic shading refers to minor natural obstructions that are easy to clean off, such as built-up dust, pollen, or even snow. Dynamic shading may also include factors that are well outside of your control, like rain, dark clouds passing by, or other natural effects that could temporarily limit how much sunlight your panels can absorb.

Static shading, on the other hand, comes from larger, more imposing blockages that you may not be able to remove. Trees, buildings, cellular towers, and other common physical obstructions are all examples of static shading. Given how the position of the sun can impact the amount of shadow that falls across your solar panels, it’s essential to avoid static shading as much as possible.

Why Shading Is Troublesome

A common misconception about solar panel energy is that the panels lose out on generating power in proportion to the amount of shade they receive. For example, it makes sense to think that if 10 percent of your panel is obscured by shadows, you’re receiving 10 percent less solar energy. However, this is not the case; instead, shading can limit your solar panels far more than you might anticipate. Studies indicate that covering a single cell on your panel can create a solar power loss of 50 percent, although that can increase all the way up to 80 percent when it comes to solar output.

Because all of those PV cells connect to one another, they work like a chain, and the weakest link can severely limit your solar energy system’s total power. Try thinking about it this way: you are attempting to get off of an airplane. No matter how fast everybody else can move or how ready they are to get off the plane, they can only move as quickly as the person at the front who’s blocking the aisle while trying to get their bags. In other words, the maximum current of your setup won’t exceed that of the shaded cell, which can create massive problems when trying to optimize your solar energy.

How To Reduce Shading Risk

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize solar panel system shading. The first step is to hire a solar power expert who can perform a thorough inspection of your property. A site survey allows the certified inspector to determine where potential static shading interferences may come from. They will also examine your setup to help you create the ideal panel layout. Since there may be situations where certain panels unexpectedly become obstructions that cast shadows on other panels, a site survey will provide the necessary information to help you remove as many shadow risks as possible.

A site surveyor will analyze the location of your property, consider the trajectory of the sun from your location, look for potential obstructions, and help you decide how to optimize your solar energy collection. While the length of each day may determine how long shadows rest on your solar panels, a site survey will help you minimize the impacts those shadows have on your overall solar energy generation.

To truly get the most out of your solar panel system, store your excess solar power in off-grid solar batteries from BigBattery. We have lithium battery packs in a range of sizes and voltages so you can find the ideal storage solution for your system. If you need assistance finding the right battery pack for your needs, feel free to contact us and speak to one of our specialists.