Sunlight over field in Ireland

Solar Panels & Shading

Solar Performance and Shading

If solar is our best friend, shading is our worst enemy. Even the slightest shade on a section of your solar panel can have a negative effect on your whole system.

By default, your system can only reach the limits of its worst-performing panel.

What shading does to your solar energy output?

Solar panels work on a delicate balance of enough sunlight reaching the panels for the electrons to flow as they should.

Imagine the solar panel system as a pipe, and the power running through it like water. Shading, on any part of the system, will cause the pipe to bottleneck and decrease the output of the water.

In extreme cases of prolonged hard shading, the system can actually shut down to avoid permanent damage.

Types of shading

There are two types of shading, soft and hard.

Soft shading

Soft shading is caused by faraway objects, mostly clouds. Because soft shading is more than likely to be uniform (covering the entire solar array), it is easier to manage. Shading of the whole system will cause a decrease in power output, rather than a bottleneck at a given point.

Hard shading

Hard shading is caused by objects closer to the panel. This type of shade is usually non-uniform and can be trickier to tackle.

Some physical objects that cause hard shading.

  • Trees

  • Poles

  • Chimneys

  • Dust/sand

  • Ice and snow

  • Fallen leaves

Dealing with shading

Thankfully, the impact of shading on solar panels can be prevented or adjusted.


Microinverters, attached to each individual panel, allow them to work independently. The maximum power output of each panel is taken, regardless of the performance of any other panel.

Bypass diodes can be installed to allow a series of connected panels to bypass any affected panels. However, the panels that are bypassed can not contribute to the power outage.

Cleaning your panels

Over time, shading can occur from a build-up of debris, bird droppings, weed growth, etc. A good old fashion cleaning of your panel from time to time can sort this.

Moving your panels

If shading has developed due to tree growth or new buildings in your proximity, it may be worth repositioning your system. Talk to your solar panel provider to see what options are available.

Related Articles:

Solar on an Irish home

Smart Meters & Solar explained

Ways to cut costs by combining smart meter plans, solar panels, and solar batteries. Read more...

Sun breaking through trees

History of Solar

With a timeline that spans from the 7th century B.C to today, we take a look at the fascinating history of solar power. Read more...

Solar panels on an Irish bungalow

How do Solar Panels Work?

Here, we break down the science behind them and explain how solar panels actually generate energy. Read more...

Purevolt Solar team carrying solar panel

How Solar Panels are Made?

A look behind the scenes at how solar panels are made. From sand to high-tech on your roof. Read more...

Purevolt Solar staff member holding ladder

Solar Jargon Buster

A no-nonsense guide to understanding the jargon and slang often used in the solar industry. Read more...

Solar on an Ivy Clad House

Solar Myths

A look at the 10 biggest misconceptions regarding solar power and the truth behind them. Read more...

Purevolt Solar hi-vis jacket on solar panel

Solar Thermal Versus Solar PV

The difference between, and the pros and cons, of solar thermal systems and solar PV systems. Read more...