Is Solar Energy Right for Your Property?
Are you interested in solar energy? Although many people would like to install solar panels on their home or commercial buildings, concerns about daytime sunlight and weather mean that many property owners never take action.
It’s no surprise that solar panels work most efficiently in sunny weather. But if your home or commercial building is located in an area that frequently gets overcast or rainy area, it can still benefit from solar panels.
In this guide, we’ll look at the key factors that affect the efficiency of a solar energy system. We’ll also discuss whether or not solar panels can benefit every building or only those in bright, sunny areas.
Do you need year-round sun to benefit from solar panels?
One of the most popular solar energy myths is that solar panels just aren’t effective in areas without constant, year-round sunlight.
While solar panels work most efficiently and generate the most electricity in sunny conditions, a solar photovoltaic system can still generate electricity on cloudy days or in cool weather.
This means that the difference in efficiency between, for example, a sunnier city in the south of England and a cooler, cloudier city in the north isn’t as big as you may think.
Statistics from a Guardian article on solar panel payback periods show that there’s only a 1.4 year difference between the UK’s sunniest cities and its least sunny cities in the amount of time it takes to pay for solar panels, on average.
Plymouth, which consistently ranks among the UK’s sunniest locations, has an 8.4 year average solar energy payback period. Manchester and Wakefield, both cities that receive significantly less sunlight, have payback periods of 9.7 and 9.8 years.
This means that the cost of solar energy, as determined by its payback period, is only 16.67% greater in the UK’s least sunny cities as it is in southern cities that receive the highest sunshine hours.
In fact, contrary to popular belief, solar panels don’t need intense sunlight in order to produce energy. Solar panels actually operate more efficiently when they aren’t subject to heat – an obvious by-product of extremely sunny weather.
An example of this can be seen in San Francisco – a city best known for its extremely foggy weather. According to the San Francisco Solar Task Force, solar panels in San Francisco generate just as much electricity as those in California’s warmer cities, in spite of the city’s overcast weather.
Even if your property is located in a city with overcast or rainy weather, you can still benefit hugely from installing solar panels. The small decrease in efficiency only has a minor effect on the system’s overall electricity production and value for money.
Since you can still draw electricity from the national grid, you can also make up for low electricity production on rainy days. This means that there’s no need to worry about inconsistent energy generation with a solar photovoltaic panel system.
Can trees and other obstacles affect solar panels?
If some or all of your property’s roof is covered by shade throughout the day, this will likely have a negative effect on the efficiency of your solar panels.
Solar panels are made up of a series of solar cells – collections of cells that capture sunlight and convert it into DC electricity. This DC electricity is then converted into AC electricity by the system’s inverter for use in your home or building.
When shade blocks one part of a solar panel, it can reduce the output of the entire collection of solar cells by a significant amount. Solar cells that are entirely covered by shade produce no output at all, massively reducing their efficiency.
Modern solar panels often use bypass diodes, which improve efficiency if the panel is partially shaded. Complete shade, however, will reduce the output of most solar panels to almost zero, resulting in no significant electricity generation.
In most cases, it’s possible to reduce the effects that trees, hills, tall buildings and other obstacles can have on your solar panel system using a variety of methods:
- Install your solar panel system in a location that isn’t negatively affected by obstacles such as trees or nearby buildings. This includes small trees that could, over time, grow large enough to interfere with your solar panels.
- If trees located within your property cast a shadow on your building’s roof, relocate the trees to a location that doesn’t affect the efficiency of your solar panel installation.
- Split your solar panel installation into two or more groups on your building’s roof or site, allowing at least one section of panels to work efficiently even if another is partially or completely covered by shade.
Are you concerned about the potential effects of shade on your solar panels? We can check your building’s location as well as trees and neighbouring buildings to ensure your solar panel installation won’t be affected by shade.
Which direction should your solar panels face?
Most solar energy experts recommend installing panels on a south-facing roof. This allows your solar panels to receive the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day, optimising your system’s electricity output.
Panels that face solar south – not magnetic south, which is the direction shown on a compass – typically offer the best return on investment, producing more electricity and achieving a shorter payback period than panels installed in other directions.
If your building doesn’t have a south-facing roof, or its south-facing roof is partially or completely shaded throughout the day, you can also install solar panels on east-west facing roofs.
Solar panels installed in an east-west orientation don’t receive the intense daytime light that south-facing solar panels do. However, they receive consistent sunlight as the sun travels from the east to the west throughout the morning, day and evening.
The east-west orientation is frequently used in Germany – which currently has the greatest capacity of photovoltaic panels in the world – proving that it’s effective for many homes and commercial buildings.
If your home has a north-facing roof as well as east-west roofs, we can review any additional factors – such as shade or nearby buildings – to determine the optimal location for your solar photovoltaic panels.
Are you interested in solar energy?
If your home receives daytime sun, you could save thousands of pounds over the next few decades by switching from a non-renewable source of electricity to solar power.
Low solar panel prices and government incentives like the Feed-in Tariff mean that there’s never been a better time to install solar panels to start lowering your energy bills.
We offer high quality solar panels and solar water heating equipment for residential and commercial buildings. Our team of solar energy experts and installers can help you learn more about the best solar power system for your property.
Contact us today to learn more about the solar energy solutions available for your property and the benefits of switching to solar power.