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Low Sun Angles Result in Reduced Solar Energy Because


When the sun is low on the horizon, especially during certain times of the year, the amount of energy generated by solar panels decreases. The reasons behind this reduced energy production is important for optimizing solar systems and harnessing the sun’s power to its fullest potential.

Low Sun Angles and Their Impact on Solar Energy

The angle at which sunlight hits the Earth varies throughout the day and across different seasons. When the sun is lower on the horizon, such as during sunrise and sunset, the sun’s rays must pass through a thicker layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. This increased atmospheric thickness leads to several factors that influence the reduced solar energy production:

Read: How Much Energy Does a 12kW Solar System Produce?

1. Longer Path Length and Atmospheric Absorption

During low sun angles, sunlight has to travel through a greater distance of the Earth’s atmosphere before reaching the solar panels. This longer path length results in increased scattering and absorption of solar radiation by dust, water vapor, and other particles present in the atmosphere. Consequently, less solar energy reaches the solar panels, leading to reduced energy production.

2. Reduced Solar Intensity

As the sun’s rays pass through the atmosphere at an angle, they cover a larger surface area. This dispersion of sunlight reduces its intensity on the solar panels, translating into decreased energy conversion. The reduced solar intensity during low sun angles directly affects the efficiency of solar energy systems.

3. Diffuse Sunlight and Albedo Effect

During low sun angles, sunlight tends to scatter in different directions, creating what is known as diffuse sunlight. Diffuse sunlight is less direct and concentrated, resulting in a lower energy yield from solar panels. Additionally, the albedo effect, which refers to the reflection of sunlight by the Earth’s surface, is more pronounced during low sun angles, further reducing the net solar energy absorbed by solar panels.

4. Angle of Incidence and Energy Conversion

The angle of incidence, which is the angle at which sunlight strikes the surface of the solar panel, plays a critical role in energy conversion. During low sun angles, the angle of incidence is less optimal, leading to decreased energy conversion efficiency. Solar panels perform best when sunlight strikes them perpendicular to their surface, which is typically achieved when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.

5. Seasonal Changes and Sun’s Path

Throughout the year, the sun’s path across the sky changes due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis. During certain seasons, such as winter in the northern hemisphere, the sun remains lower on the horizon for extended periods, causing a prolonged impact on solar energy production. Understanding the seasonal variations in sun angles is vital for effectively planning solar installations.

6. Geographical Location

The impact of low sun angles on solar energy varies based on the geographical location of the solar installation. Areas closer to the poles experience more pronounced changes in sun angles throughout the year, leading to greater fluctuations in solar energy production. On the other hand, regions closer to the equator tend to have more consistent sun angles, resulting in relatively stable solar energy generation.

Optimizing Solar Energy Production during Low Sun Angles

While low sun angles can pose challenges to solar energy generation, there are several strategies to optimize solar systems and maximize energy production during these conditions:

1. Tilt and Orientation of Solar Panels

Adjusting the tilt and orientation of solar panels can significantly impact their energy production during low sun angles. By tilting the panels at an angle that aligns with the local latitude and adjusting the orientation to face south (in the northern hemisphere) or north (in the southern hemisphere), solar panels can capture more sunlight during the day.

2. Tracking Systems

Solar tracking systems allow solar panels to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day, ensuring that they receive maximum sunlight exposure at all times. Single-axis and dual-axis tracking systems are available, with dual-axis systems being more effective at capturing sunlight during low sun angles.

3. Cleanliness and Maintenance

Regularly cleaning solar panels and ensuring their proper maintenance is essential for optimal energy production. Dust, dirt, and debris on the panels can obstruct sunlight and reduce efficiency. By keeping the panels clean, their performance during low sun angles can be improved.

4. Energy Storage Solutions

Integrating energy storage solutions, such as batteries, with solar installations allows surplus energy generated during peak sun hours to be stored and used during low sun angles or nighttime. Energy storage helps maintain a stable power supply even when solar energy production is reduced.

5. Smart Grid Integration

Connecting solar systems to smart grids enables the efficient distribution of energy. During periods of low solar energy production, smart grids can compensate by drawing power from other renewable sources or conventional energy grids.

6. Hybrid Solar Systems

Hybrid solar systems combine solar energy with other renewable energy sources, such as wind or hydroelectric power, to ensure a continuous energy supply. These systems are particularly useful during extended periods of low sun angles.

FAQs about Low Sun Angles and Solar Energy

  1. Q: Can solar panels generate any energy during low sun angles?
    A: Yes, solar panels can still generate energy during low sun angles, but their efficiency is reduced compared to when the sun is higher in the sky.
  2. Q: Are there specific times of the year when low sun angles have a more significant impact on solar energy production?
    A: Yes, during the winter months in the northern hemisphere and the summer months in the southern hemisphere, low sun angles are more prevalent, resulting in reduced solar energy generation.
  3. Q: Do low sun angles affect all types of solar panels equally?
    A: Different types of solar panels may have varying responses to low sun angles. However, the overall impact is similar across most solar panel technologies.
  4. Q: How can I determine the best tilt angle for my solar panels?
    A: The best tilt angle for solar panels is typically equal to the latitude of the installation location. However, consulting with a solar professional can provide more accurate recommendations based on specific site conditions.
  5. Q: Are there any specific regions where low sun angles have minimal impact on solar energy production?
    A: Equatorial regions experience relatively consistent sun angles throughout the year, resulting in less variation in solar energy production compared to regions closer to the poles.
  6. Q: What are the long-term effects of reduced solar energy production during low sun angles?
    A: Prolonged periods of reduced solar energy production can affect overall energy generation and may necessitate supplementary energy sources during these periods.


Understanding why low sun angles result in reduced solar energy is crucial for optimizing solar systems and improving their efficiency. Factors like longer path length, reduced solar intensity, and changes in the angle of incidence all contribute to decreased energy production during certain times of the day and year.

By implementing the right strategies, such as adjusting panel tilt, using tracking systems, and integrating energy storage solutions, solar energy production can be maximized even during low sun angles.

Embracing renewable energy and making the most of solar power will undoubtedly play a vital role in shaping a sustainable future for our planet.