A question that many people have when first considering solar power is – Do solar panels work during cloudy days? Let’s delve into this question and discover the big picture involved.
To answer the question, yes, solar panels do work during cloudy weather, however the energy output can be cut drastically. On really dark and gloomy days, solar panel output can be cut down to as little as 5 to 10 percent. Solar panels can still produce energy when the sun is not out because there is still a small amount of visible and infrared light that gets captured by panels.
Since such a high percentage of those that have gone solar are still connected to the grid, cloudy days do not have an effect on whether or not those homeowners have access to electricity. They are simply drawing much more energy from the grid on days when there isn’t much sunshine.
A better, “big picture”, question would be to ask – “On average, how many cloudy days does my area get in a given year?” The answer, no matter where you live, is not too many. This is because there’s plenty of sunshine available throughout a given year in any part of the country for solar to make sense. In fact, Germany is the leader in solar power adoption while having more cloudy days than just about anywhere in the United States. As can be seen in the following image, a very high percentage of the homes in the U.S. have enough available rooftop space to access at least 1,600 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, while Germany gets only about 1,200 kilowatt-hours per year per home.
An abundance of cloudy days can have an effect on payback range. In relatively sunny, high-priced electricity areas of the country, the payback range for a solar panel system can be as little as a few years. In cloudier areas, it can be much closer to 10 years before a system has paid for itself.
Another misconception is that really warm and sunny parts of the country, like the southwest, are the best locales for solar power. This isn’t necessarily true. Electronics, in general, do not work as efficiently in hot climates. So a solar panel system located in a desert climate might be exposed to more days of sunlight, yet solar panel efficiency can suffer during days of excessive heat.
It’s good to know that the occasional cloudy day won’t be stopping the solar power revolution. One of the major changes that we’ll see in the coming years is that instead of the grid supplying energy, homeowners will get much of their back up power from home energy storage systems.
Hopefully those who live in cloudier environments will soon learn that solar power is still a good choice for them and ultimately make the switch.