Britain has made great pushes to develop national usage of solar panels and considers them key to attaining their goal of having net zero carbon emissions by 2050. One thing that is often asked about them is their efficiency. Many people believe that the biggest determining factor in how much energy you generate is how much sunlight there is – but the truth is, the angle of the solar panel is far more important in energy generation.
This blog will go into the details of angling Solar Panels, including how it impacts energy generation, how you should adjust for the seasons and your region, and the impact of the UK’s weather in general.
The Best Angle for Solar Panels – UK
To understand the best angle of a solar panel in the UK, you must understand the following two terms – the azimuth and tilt angle:
- Azimuth – The azimuth angle refers to the angle at which the solar panel faces using true north as a reference. For example, if you were to face your solar panels East, the azimuth angle would be 90 degrees. West would be 270, as the degrees go strictly clockwise.
- Tilt Angle – The tilt angle is more self-explanatory. It refers to what angle the solar panel is tilting at.
If you can find these two optimal angles, then you will find your solar panel to be operating at very high efficiency, as these are the two main factors in how much energy your panels generate.
It might be a surprise, but there is a standard format for both of these angles.
The Azimuth Angle
The Azimuth angle is usually 180 degrees south. This is because the UK is in the northern hemisphere, and the sun is almost always in the southern part of the sky. This means that from dawn until dusk, as the sun moves east to west, the solar panels will catch the wider net of the sun’s rays throughout the day.
As one of the countries in the northern hemisphere, this doesn’t necessarily give us an advantage, but it simplifies a vital aspect of solar panel installation.
The Tilt Angle
The tilt angle for solar panels is usually between 20 and 50 degrees. The UK is situated at a higher latitude compared to other regions in the world, and in these regions, the sun is usually lower in the sky. As a result, a higher degree angle is required than usual.
The sun behaves differently depending on the season. For example, during summer, the sun goes higher in the sky. As a result, you will need to have the solar panel more flat against your roof. This brings another facet to the table – that of adjusting the tilt angle for the most optimal outcomes. Since the tilt angle is one of the few things aside from occasional maintenance that you may want to engage with, it’s important to point out that many solar panels come with an adjustable tilt angle. Some more sophisticated models have entire automatic setups that can be remote-controlled.
Generally, the best all-year-round tilt angle is between 35-40 degrees. However specific areas and seasons change the optimal angle for solar panels in the UK.
The UK’s Solar Profile
Every country has their own geographic and climatic conditions that determine the requirements for efficient solar panel usage. As we’ve already discussed, the UK is situated at a high latitude, and it’s in the northern hemisphere. This means that the UK experiences noticeable variations in daylight hours and solar intensity throughout the year, as well as the vertical position of the sun.
The UK is a country at high latitude, meaning that it experiences massive differences in its relationship to the sun throughout the year. We will list the four seasons, their impact on solar panels, and how best to mitigate these impacts in the following points. But please, bear in mind that the following rules are for the UK only:
- Spring – In spring, you can expect the sun to begin to rise higher in the sky. This will accompany an increase in daylight hours, meaning that over time, your potential gains from your solar panels will increase. To capitalise on this, a gradual reduction of the tilt angle is recommended.
- Summer – During Summer, the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. This leads to the longest days you’ll have in the year, and the sun itself reaches its peak as far as solar radiation. This means summer is the prime time to generate energy. Most solar panel enthusiasts have batteries ready for this season, in particular, making it a modern harvest season. To gain the most solar energy from this month, align the panel to a flatter angle.
- Autumn – In autumn, the sun begins to lower in the sky. This leads to shortened days, and reduced solar angles. The decreasing daylight hours leads to reduced solar potential. To capitalise on whatever potential is available, ensure that you begin to increase the tilt angle. Bear in mind that the autumn equinox can bring rapidly changing weather, which may further affect solar output.
- Winter – Throughout human history, winter has always been the most dreaded season, and that’s no different with solar panels. Despite heavy technological advancements ensuring that decent amounts of solar energy can be gained during this season, it is still the lowest-performing season across the world for solar generation. Furthermore, if it snows, you may need to clear your solar panels – but snowfall around the solar panel increases solar output due to reflection.
The UK is notorious for its changeable weather. Being frequently cloudy and having exacerbated overcast conditions, solar panels used to be a very questionable investment. However, with technological advancements in Modern Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels, which are now standard, solar panels can now function efficiently even in cloudy weather. Monocrystalline panels in particular, for example, are designed specifically for the UK’s climate profile with their high-quality silicon construction. Light trapping within these modules in particular helps in maintaining consistent performance even in unpredictable, volatile weather.
On top of this is the introduction of solar batteries. Solar batteries are a game-changer, allowing households to store generated energy. This means in weather or seasons where solar panel generation is lowered, you can still tap into reserves you’ve created during higher potential periods.
On top of this, do not worry about having to dry off the solar panels. They have high water resistance and are designed to take advantage of water falling on them. They can use this liquid to clean themselves, lowering the overall maintenance required.
There is one iron-clad rule to solar generation – the closer you are to the equator, the more direct and longer you are exposed to daylight. The equator is the line that divides the northern and southern hemispheres, which is the geographical north and south divide of the planet.
As a result, the south of the UK is closer to the equator than the north of the UK. This means that the South gets a lot more daylight than the North. On top of this, the north of the UK is generally a lot more mountainous than the south. The highlands and more hilly areas have frequent shading and less optimal angles for solar panel installation.
This is another hurdle that advancements in Solar Panel technology have addressed. Due to these frequent issues, not only has efficiency for panels increased (as explained in the previous section), but also the locations in which you can position your solar panels have expanded. A lot of solar panels have been engineered to be installed on more uneven surfaces, allowing them to suit more mountainous terrain.
One ingenious way is through the tilted mounting structure. These structures create an elevated base in which to install your solar panels, raising it and tilting it to pull in solar energy, critical for areas that have steep terrain.
Best Angles for Solar Panels per Region
The optimal angle for your solar panel will change per region, however, not by a great deal. Below is a table that essentially irons out the best angle for solar panels in the UK:
|Optimal Year-Round Tilt Angle
|Spring Tilt Angle
|Summer Tilt Angle
|Autumn Tilt Angle
|Winter Tilt Angle
|East of England
|Yorkshire and Humber
- The above information has been sourced based on information from The Eco Experts and Solar Advice UK.
Best Angle For Solar Panels UK Summary
For the everyday solar panel user, changing the angle of your solar panels to optimise their performance each season isn’t exactly practical. With that said, we know there are many solar panel enthusiasts out there that want to squeeze every ounce of renewable energy from their solar panels.
If that sounds you, then hopefully today’s guide will inspire you to make the most of your solar panels and reach out to get a solar panel quote.
For the majority, though, knowing a sensible angle for your area year-round is usually enough to ensure your return on investment comes back sooner rather than later and ensure your solar panels are working for you.