Do Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Days or At Night?

Solar panels’ working concept is based on the photovoltaic effect. This is the ability of certain materials to convert light energy into electricity. So, as long as there is a light source, solar panels will be able to generate energy. However, the energy created will be less during cloudy days or nights, as the light source will be weaker.

How do solar panels work?

How solar panels work
How solar panels work by SUNPOWER

Light is made up of tiny particles called photons, and each photon contains a certain amount of energy. When a photon with enough energy reaches a solar panel, it can transfer its energy to an electron in one of the solar panel’s atoms.

This process frees up the electron, allowing it to flow freely through the material. When many photons hit the solar panel, they can free up a lot of electrons.

It is this flow of electrons that generates an electric current, and this current can then be used to power electrical grids.

Do solar panels work on cloudy days?

Solar panels during cloudy days
Solar panels during cloudy days by GenWatt

Solar panels do work in cloudy weather. Clouds block some sunlight, but they don’t stop all of it. So, some photons are still hitting the solar panel, and the panel will still generate electricity.

However, the amount of electricity generated will be less than on a sunny day. A solar panel can lose up to 90% of its power on a cloudy day, depending on the type of clouds and how dense they are.

It’s also important to mention that although solar panels generate more electricity when they are exposed to direct sunlight, they don’t work well in hot climates, as the heat can reduce their energy output.

This means that clouds can benefit solar panels in hot climates, as they can reflect and sometimes even magnify sunlight, resulting in higher power output.

Do solar panels work at night?

Solar panels work at night by NewScietist

Theoretically, solar panels could work at night, as long as there is a light source to provide photons. However, in practice, even if there is a powerful light source nearby, like a full moon or artificial lighting, they would still only generate a minimal amount of electricity.

These light sources mainly generate low-power photons, which don’t have enough energy to free up the electrons in the solar panel’s atoms. This renders solar panels not viable for generating electricity at night.

For this reason, solar panels go into something called sleep mode, where they become inactive and don’t produce any energy until sunrise when there is enough sunlight for the panels to start generating electricity again.

How to store solar energy to use on cloudy days or nighttime?

How solar batteries work
How solar batteries work by Partners in Energy

On a sunny day, your solar system can generate more electricity than you currently need. This excess electricity can be stored in solar batteries to be used during the night or on cloudy days.

You can also use the electricity grid as a storage system via net metering. This means your solar system will be connected to the grid, and any excess electricity can be sold to the grid for other people to use.

Then, when you need electricity at night or on a cloudy day, you can repurchase it from the grid. Of course, this means that you will still be dependent on the grid to some extent, but it’s a good option if you don’t want to invest in batteries.

  • Nichole Hutt

    Hi, I'm Nichole! 👋
    I always felt close to nature during my childhood. Preferring to spend my time alone playing with backyard animals at my family farm. 🐷
    In 1997, I attained my electrical engineering degree at the Oregon Institute Of Technology, graduating top of my class. Several years later, I qualified for my M.S. in Renewable Energy Engineering, also at OIT. 🎓

    Combining my love for nature and passion for engineering, I have worked for solar panel manufacturer's in my state, most notably as a PV solar engineer for Zamp Solar.

    I founded RenewableSystems to share my knowledge and expertise in the renewable energy field and help save this beautiful little planet of ours. ☀️🌎

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