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South African Region’s Year-Round Sunshine

According to the South African Department of Energy, the majority of areas in South Africa enjoy over 2,500 hours of annual sunshine, with solar radiation levels averaging between 4.5 and 6.5 kWh/m2 per day. Let's look into South African Region's and it's average hours of sun.


South Africa yields huge sun energy potential

The Southern African region, encompassing the entirety of Africa, benefits from year-round sunshine. South Africa’s local solar resource stands out significantly, boasting an annual 24-hour global solar radiation average of approximately 220 W/m2. This stands in contrast to roughly 150 W/m2 in parts of the USA, and about 100 W/m2 in Europe and the United Kingdom. This remarkable disparity establishes South Africa’s solar potential as one of the most abundant on a global scale.

Given the relatively new status of the solar industry in South Africa, it’s crucial to acknowledge the abundant sunlight the country receives compared to other global regions. This recognition underscores the heightened potential for successful solar photovoltaic (PV) utilisation.

South Africa’s Regional differences
South Africa exhibits regional differences, especially in terms of climate and sunlight exposure. Here are two notable regional differences:

  • Dry climate: The northern and western parts of South Africa, particularly the Northern Cape and Western Cape provinces, receive higher levels of sunlight throughout the year. These areas are characterised by a dry climate and are known for having more sunny days. The coastal areas of the Western Cape, such as Cape Town, also enjoy relatively sunny weather.
  • Tropical climate: In contrast, the eastern and southern regions of South Africa, including provinces like KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, experience a more varied climate with a higher chance of rainfall. While they still receive a significant amount of sunlight, the weather conditions can be more temperate and humid compared to the drier western regions.

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Importance of sun hours for solar panels

Sunlight hours are a crucial factor in determining the efficiency and energy production of solar panels. The amount of sunlight your solar panels receive directly impacts their ability to generate electricity. Here’s why sun hours are important for your solar panels:

✓ Energy Production: Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity through photovoltaic cells. The more sunlight they receive, the more energy they can produce. Sunlight is composed of photons, and when these photons strike the solar cells, they release electrons and generate a flow of electric current. Therefore, longer and more intense sun exposure leads to higher energy production.

✓ System Performance: The efficiency and performance of a solar panel system depend on the amount of sunlight it receives. If your solar panels are exposed to fewer sun hours, their energy output will be reduced, potentially affecting your ability to meet your energy needs and generate savings on your electricity bills.

✓ Sizing and Output: The sizing of your solar panel system is influenced by the expected sun hours in your location. To meet your energy consumption goals, you need to install a system that can capture enough sunlight to generate the required amount of electricity. If you have fewer sun hours, you might need a larger system to compensate.

✓ Seasonal Variations: Sunlight hours can vary based on the time of year and your geographical location. Some areas experience more sun hours during certain seasons, while others have consistent sun exposure throughout the year. Understanding these variations helps in optimising system design and estimating energy production.

✓ Financial Returns: The energy your solar panels produce can result in savings on your electricity bills or even income if you participate in net metering or feed-in tariff programs. Maximising sun hours ensures you’re making the most of your investment by generating as much energy as possible.

✓ Environmental Impact: Solar energy is a clean and renewable source of power. By maximising sun hours and increasing energy production, you contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening the dependence on fossil fuels.


Regional Sunlight Variation across South Africa

Here’s an approximate breakdown of a solar map that provides a summary of estimated photovoltaic (PV) power generation potential. It represents an average daily sun hours per region in South Africa that can produce electricity.

from high to low

Sun hours per day, based on the annual average

Starting at high and continuing to the lower numbers of sunshine hours in South Africa.
Northern Cape (e.g., Upington)
The Northern Cape is known for its high sun exposure. On average, this region receives around 5.7 - 6.3 hours of sunlight per day throughout the year.
North West (e.g., Rustenburg)
The North West experiences a moderate amount of sun, with approximately 5.5 - 6.1 hours of sunlight per day.
Free State (e.g., Bloemfontein)
The Free State has a high amount of sun exposure, with an average of around 5.3 - 5.7 hours of sunlight per day.
Gauteng (e.g., Johannesburg)
Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg, has a similar sun exposure to the Free State, with approximately 5.3 - 5.5 hours of sunlight per day.
Western Cape (e.g., Cape Town)
The Western Cape, including Cape Town, also enjoys a good amount of sun. It receives around 4.7 - 6.0 hours of sunlight per day on average.
Mpumalanga (e.g., Mbombela)
Mpumalanga receives the same 4.7 - 5.5 hours of sunlight per day. It's actually a very average province in terms of sunshine hours
Limpopo (e.g., Polokwane)
Limpopo receives around 4.7 - 5.3 hours of sunlight per day, making it a region with moderate sun exposure too.
Eastern Cape (e.g., Port Elizabeth)
The Eastern Cape experiences a moderate amount of sun, with approximately 4.3 - 5.6 hours of sunlight per day.
KwaZulu-Natal (e.g., Durban)
KwaZulu-Natal receives around 4.3 - 5.3 hours of sunlight per day. It is the province with the least amount of sunshine.
Yield of solar panels

More then just the sun

It’s important to note that while sun hours are crucial, other factors such as panel orientation, tilt angle, shading, and temperature also influence solar panel performance. When installing a solar panel system, it’s advisable to work with a qualified solar installer who can assess your specific location, energy needs, and environmental conditions to design an optimal system for maximum energy production.

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