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Factors that can affect solar panel efficiency

 Solar panels are resilient but there are still a few things that can compromise their efficiency. Know how to work around them.

Before jumping the gun and discussing the factors that affect the efficiency of solar panels, let’s begin by understanding what solar panel efficiency is. Solar panel efficiency is the ability of the panel to convert sunlight into electrical energy. To understand this with an example, let’s assume the sun is shining at a 15% rating i.e. a high efficiency, then this 15% will be converted to solar energy. The efficiency of these panels is directly proportional to the amount of electricity produced, more efficient panels, more electricity.

Over the past years, the efficiency of these panels has drastically mushroomed with most of them being 15-20% efficient and with its cost which has fallen more than 80%.

However, even after an increase in their efficiency there are certain factors that can still impact solar panel efficiency leading to poor output. Let us breeze through some of these factors that can potentially be unrewarding if overlooked.

Positioning and geographical location 

The direction and the angle of the panels influence the power output due to environmental and climatic factors. When the light falls perpendicularly on the surface of the modules placed in the right direction and appropriate tilt, they receive high-intensity sunlight for a long time so that the system generates maximum power. 

Based on the region you live, solar panels should be placed in a direction that receives the most sunlight throughout the year. The general rule is that the panels should face true north in the Southern Hemisphere to ensure that the solar panels receive direct sunlight at a stretch throughout the day.

Snow accumulation on low-tilt panels may reduce or completely block the Sun’s rays from reaching the solar panel during winter. Thus, it is crucial to adjust the panels based on the climatic conditions of the particular region to ensure optimal results.  

Temperature

It’s a common presumption that high temperature leads to high solar panel efficiency, but it is just a myth. It is crucial to understand that heat and sunlight are different, and too much heat can negatively affect solar panels’ efficiency. Solar cells perform better in the cold ( around 25˚C) rather than in hot climates. Heat exposure can prematurely degrade solar cells and lead to a drop in voltage and overall power. 

Shading 

Just a little shade can affect a solar panel’s power output dramatically. Shadows from sources like a distant tree branch or cloud can significantly reduce the amount of light reaching the solar cells. A shadow cast on even just part of one solar panel in your solar array can potentially compromise the output of the whole system. 

Maintenance

To ensure optimal performance and security it is important to get periodic system checks and maintain cleanliness of the panels. Dirt on the solar panels prevents light from passing through thus reducing their efficiency. That’s why it is necessary to clean the panels and ensure that dust, bird poop and other particulates do not settle on them. 

 

Type of panels

Solar panels made up of monocrystalline cells are more efficient as they are cut from a single source of silicon and composition of these cells is purer. They also perform better in high heat and lower light environments, which means they will produce closer to their rated output in less than ideal conditions. Whereas, polycrystalline solar cells are blended from multiple silicon sources and are slightly less efficient than mono panels due to imperfections in the surface of the solar cells. Naturally, monocrystalline panels are more expensive than polycrystalline ones, but at the same time are more efficient and make up for the extra cost.  

Embrace the sun 

To get maximum efficiency from the solar panels it is important to emphasize on your geographical location, weather changes, cleanliness, tilt, and direction of the modules, as these factors can reduce the output if neglected. However, an experienced solar installer will assess all these essential factors and recommend the best solutions for your panels to make the most out of the sun’s power. 

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