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Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

Solar panels on the roof of a house. The sky is cloudy.

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As many already know, solar panels take sunlight and convert it into renewable electricity to power homes and businesses. However, this dependence on sunlight begs the question — do solar panels work on cloudy days? Given how clouds block out the sun, this is a natural question to have. Let’s take a look at whether or not solar panels can continue to provide green energy during cloudy weather.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Before we delve into whether or not cloudy weather can impact the performance of solar panels, it’s important to understand how they function in the first place. Photovoltaic solar panels consist of numerous interconnected solar cells made from semiconductor materials like silicon. When sunlight hits these cells, it triggers a phenomenon known as the photovoltaic effect, which causes the solar cells to generate a direct current (DC) of electricity as they absorb photons from the sun’s rays. 

This DC electricity is then converted into alternating current (AC) using an inverter, making it suitable for powering homes and businesses. The solar panel system is typically connected to the municipal electric grid, allowing excess power generated during sunny days to be fed back into the grid, potentially earning credits through a process called net metering.

Do Solar Panels Function in Overcast?

While solar panels are most effective on sunny days, as there are more direct rays of light from the sun for them to absorb, they are by no means useless on cloudy days — solar panel cells can still absorb hues that are reflected from the sky. Even under cloud coverage, a significant portion of the sun’s rays can penetrate through and reach the solar cells. It’s worth noting that not all cloudy days are the same, as the thickness of cloud cover can vary depending on the weather. This means that cloudy skies that aren’t as thick will help panels produce more energy, while thicker clouds will make them produce less.

It’s worth noting that rainy weather can be beneficial for solar panel performance. When it rains, the water droplets falling on the panels can help wash away dirt, dust, and other forms of debris that have accumulated over time. Any obstructions can lower your panel’s ability to absorb sunlight, meaning that occasional rain can help refresh your solar panels and help them continue to provide your home with renewable energy.

When Do Solar Panels Not Work?

Even though solar panels will continue to function in cloudy weather, there are still some situations that can impair their performance which homeowners should be aware of. For example, seasonal changes and shading from nearby structures or trees can also affect the overall efficiency of a solar power system.

It goes without saying, but solar panels cannot function at night. Solar panels rely on the photovoltaic effect, where sunlight excites the electrons within the semiconductor material of the solar cells, generating an electric current. During the daytime, the sun’s rays provide the necessary photons for this process — however, once the sun sets, there is no direct source of light to trigger the photovoltaic effect. As a result, homeowners who want to use renewable energy at night should consider installing a battery system so that the excess power generated during the day can be used in the evening.

Reach Out to eEquals Today to Schedule a Solar System Installation!

If you’re interested in a residential solar panel installation in Springfield, IL, and the surrounding area, our solar company has you covered. eEquals is proud to offer a variety of professional solar services, including solar battery backup installations, to help homeowners and businesses obtain renewable energy. Contact us today for more information and to schedule your

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