Do Solar Panels Need Direct Sunlight to Work?

With the increasing demand for solar panels, many homeowners have questions regarding their function and requirements. Lots of buildings are partially shaded, so it is natural to wonder if solar panels will still work out of direct sunlight.

Read on to find out how solar panels work in shaded areas to ensure you are fully armed with all information your need before investing in solar panels.


How Shade Affects Solar Panels

A lot of homes sit in the shade of trees that maybe weren’t that big when the property was bought. Surrounding buildings can cause partial shade, and our gloriously unpredictable UK weather throws significant shade our way. But how does all this affect the efficiency of solar panels? The good news is that while shade contributes to solar panel usage, you can still reap the rewards of your investment even out of direct sunlight.

Solar panels generate energy through a mixture of indirect and direct sunlight, which carry photons turned into electrical current. Sunlight panels will use direct sunlight first to generate power, but if there isn’t any, it will turn to indirect sunlight.

Do Solar Panels Perform Differently Using Indirect Sunlight?

The simple answer to this is yes – when relying on indirect sunlight, the performance of solar panels will reduce. The panels require 1000W/m2 of sunlight for maximum output, which is only possible in direct sunlight. So, the output will decline while solar panels continue to generate electricity in shaded areas. The extent of the decline is dependent on several factors:


  • Time in the shade – Th decline in electrical generating will largely depend on the amount of time they were shaded. Sunlight and shade vary daily, so it is common for generation levels to change frequently.
  • The solar panels’ technology – Newer models of solar panels are specifically designed to lower the effect of shading. Standard panels that do not use half-cut PV cells will suffer a bigger hit in electricity production.
  • Setup of the inverter – The type of inverter used will impact how your panels cope with shade.

Weather Conditions

UK weather throws us wind, rain, sunshine, cloud, snow and ice, and sometimes all on the same day! Weather conditions can affect the efficiency of solar panels significantly. Rain, clouds, and snow will reduce sunlight – direct and indirect

Cloudy Days

Solar panels work on cloudy days but not as efficiently as on days with less or no clouds. Clouds block the sun’s energy and prevent it from reaching the panels. Depending on the clouds’ density, energy production could be reduced by 50-80%.


Rain will not impact the solar panels, but the clouds that come with it could cause the issue, as stated above. Despite this, the rain actually has a positive effect, too. It cleans the solar panels, clearing dirt and dust from them.


In light snow, solar panels will continue to generate energy. However, heavy snowfall will considerably reduce efficiency as the snow blocks the sunlight. It is important to note that colder weather can benefit solar panels as it stops them from overheating.

Long periods of heavy snowfall are rare in the UK, so even if your panels are hindered briefly, the snow should soon melt away, and normal electricity production will resume. Snow will easily slide off panels and can also work in the same way as rainwater and clean them.


Solar Panels and Sunlight – The Verdict

If you are considering investing in solar panels – congratulations! You are making a great choice and will soon reduce your carbon footprint and energy bills. You should first, however, establish how much shade will be cast over your property’s roof. If you expect partial shade, you can reduce your energy loss with half-cut solar cells and MLPEs. If there is a lot of shade, you should weigh the pros and cons of investing in solar panels. The best way to determine if the shade will impact your solar panels is to enlist the help of a professional solar panel installer.

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