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Do Solar Panels Need Direct Sunlight?

Published on:
14 November 2023

As the demand for clean and sustainable energy continues to rise, solar panels have become a popular choice for homeowners and businesses alike. One common misconception, however, is whether solar panels require direct sunlight to generate electricity. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the intricacies of solar panel performance.

1. How Solar Panels Work:

Before we address the direct sunlight question, let’s briefly understand how solar panels work. Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) panels, convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. When sunlight hits the solar cells, it excites electrons, creating an electric current.

2. The Impact of Direct Sunlight:

It’s true that solar panels perform optimally in direct sunlight. The more sunlight they receive, the more electricity they can generate. According to a report by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), direct sunlight can significantly enhance the efficiency of solar panels, leading to higher energy production.

3. But What About Cloudy Days?

You might wonder if solar panels work on cloudy days, especially in the UK. The good news is that solar panels can still generate electricity on cloudy days. While the efficiency may be lower compared to bright, sunny days, solar panels can harness diffuse sunlight and produce a considerable amount of energy. A study conducted by the Energy Saving Trust found that solar panels in the UK can still generate up to 25% of their potential output on a cloudy day.

4. Angle and Tilt Matter:

Another factor influencing solar panel performance is their angle and tilt. According to a study by the Solar Trade Association (STA), adjusting the angle and tilt of solar panels can optimise their exposure to sunlight throughout the day and across different seasons.

5. Shade and Obstructions:

While solar panels can generate electricity in partial sunlight, they are adversely affected by shade and obstructions. Trees, buildings, or other structures casting shadows on solar panels can significantly reduce their efficiency. The  Solar Trade Association recommends regular maintenance by a professional to ensure that solar panels remain unobstructed.


In conclusion, while solar panels indeed thrive in direct sunlight, they are not rendered useless on cloudy days or in less-than-ideal conditions. The UK’s climate may not always be sunny, but the adaptability of solar panels, coupled with advancements in technology, makes them a viable and efficient renewable energy source. Whether you live in the sunniest corner of the UK or in an area prone to clouds, solar panels can still contribute significantly to your energy needs. It’s evident that while direct sunlight is beneficial, solar panels can still function effectively in less-than-perfect weather. So, if you’re contemplating installing solar panels, rest assured that they can be a reliable and sustainable energy solution for your home or business, even when the skies aren’t perfectly clear.

More Questions?

If you are considering installing solar panels but don’t know where to start or have many more questions, we are here to help you. Contact us at 01482 230 422 or email us at info@eastyorkshiresolar.co.uk, and one our solar specialists will be happy to help you out!