Solar Shading: What impact does it have on your solar energy production?

How solar shading can affect your systems performance and the new technology to combat this...

The most common response we give to people when struggling with a change is panel performance is, “check your panels for shading or obstructions”. While there has been HUGE advances in panel performance against shading and obstacles, the affect of shading on your solar systems performance can be pretty significant and can impact the savings you see on your electricity bill.

WHY DOES SHADING HAVE SUCH AN IMPACT ON YOUR SYSTEM'S PERFORMANCE?

Let’s simplify. In a standard residential solar installation, in most cases a home is equipped with solar panels and an inverter. The solar panels catch sunlight and coverts this to DC electricity which is sent to the inverter to covert it into appliance-compatible, AC electricity. Simple enough.

The panels on your roof are grouped into ‘strings’, meaning they are wired into a single input on your solar power inverter. While the configuration and the number of panels on these strings differs from install to install for optimal efficiency, the general rules remain the same. Once one panel on a string is affected, the output of this entire string can be too. To give you a better understanding of how such little shading can result in a significant loss of production we use the example of a water pipe. Just like rate of water flow in pipe is constant, so too is the current through a string of solar cells.  

Odoo CMS - a big picture

Think of a clog in a water pipe as the same as the shade on a solar cell. Just like an obstruction in a water pipe impacts the flow of water through the rest of the pipe, shading impacts the flow of current through the entire string. This has such an impact as every panel on the string is then only able to operate at the current set by the lowest-performing, shaded cell.  This means that only a tiny amount of shading on a traditional array can drastically reduce the output of your entire PV system. 

Odoo CMS - a big picture

STRATEGIES FOR DEALING WITH SHADED AND OBSTRUCTED SOLAR PANELS

Shading does happen from time to time. Whether it be from surrounding trees, buildings, debris or bird poo, your solar panels output can become compromised over it’s lifetime but there are ways to minimise the impacts of shading by choosing better technology. 

Microinverters

While ultimately microinverters perform the same basic function as standard string inverters, there are some stark differences in their performance and features. Microinverters are installed underneath each solar panel on a roof and unlike string inverters they work by converting the output of each panel independently. Using this technology in a PV system removes the need for a centralised inverter meaning all of the DC power is converted to AC power on the roof by these components.

Because this conversion takes place at panel level, the output and performance of each solar module is not affected by other panels. This means partial shading across an array of solar panels will not have implications on the entire system and its production making it an ideal solution for homes and businesses with unavoidable shading. 

Power Optimisers 

Power optimisers are similarly attached to the back of every solar panel in a PV system but unlike microinverters, power optimisers work in conjunction with string inverters. This technology works to maximise the energy harvest from each individual panel and eliminate power mismatch between modules. Power optimisers extract the maximum energy from each module, regardless of other modules in the string including one impacted by partial shading. 

HOW WE CAN HELP!

The best way to ensure your solar production won’t be affected by shading is to have your system installed by a reputable installer with a history of excellence. At Springers Solar we ensure one of our energy experts will visit your home or business to assess the installation site to quote you the best components for your roof. If we believe your roof is likely to be impacted by unavoidable shading that will affect solar systems output we work to design a smart energy solution that can cater to these obstacles.   

As one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced solar providers we only install quality components with proven performance meaning our shading solutions are top of the line. We suggest and install Enphase microinverters and SolarEdge optimised solar modules for those looking to minimise the impact of shading on their energy yield and production. If you would like to find out more about the impact of shading on your solar system or are looking to install a system at your home or business, give us a call on (07) 3889 8898 to speak to one of our energy consultants today! 

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