Solar panels are of course a fantastic invention when it comes to the world of power production. The days of using dirty coal and other such highly unclean and polluting sources of energy are long gone. As far as green and clean energy production is concerned, solar energy is perhaps the best of all. After all, using a few key pieces of equipment, you can harness the natural energy of the sun to your advantage.
Using those UV rays, you can easily power your whole home from top to bottom, without ever having to pay another penny to your local energy supplier, or at the very least, you may be able to substantially offset your energy costs.
In many cases, people with highly efficient solar arrays are often able to achieve an energy surplus, in which case they actually sell that energy back to their local energy producers or the local government, and can end up turning quite the profit.
Now, with all of that being said, as the name implies, solar panels require the sun to operate. Obviously, solar panels get their energy from the sun, which is great if you live in a hot and sunny area.
What if you live in an area that often sees a good deal of cloud cover? Do solar panels work in cloudy weather, and if so, how well do they work? Let’s get to it and figure out what you need to know about how well solar panels work on cloudy days.
Solar Panel Efficiency on Normal Days
One of the important things for you to know here is that solar systems use what are called photovoltaic (PV) cells or panels in order to gather and convert solar energy into usable electricity. This solar harnessing and conversion process is known as the photovoltaic effect.
Moreover, there are many different types of PV cells out there, and while there are differences between them, they all work on the same principle, the photovoltaic effect. These cells or panels use semiconductors that interact with the photons from the sun to create an electric current that can then be used and/or stored for future use.
Now, the next most important thing that you need to know here is that on a hot, bright, and sunny day, a solar panel will be between 11% and 15% efficient. In other words, this means that up to 15% of the incoming solar energy that a photovoltaic panel gathers is converted into useful electricity.
Although 15% may not sound like a whole lot, the fact of the matter is the sun puts out a whole lot of energy, and 15% of whatever the sun puts out is still a lot.
Of course, how much electricity your solar panels produce depends on the exact type, as some are more efficient than others, and moreover, it does of course also depend on the size of your solar panel array.
More often than not, even a moderately sized array on the roof of a house is enough to power all of the lights, appliances, and more, and if you live in a super sunny area, you may very well produce an energy surplus that you can either store for a rainy day or sell for a profit.
However, with all of that being said, the bottom line is that solar panels are of course the most efficient on hot and sunny days, as they work best in direct sunlight. The more sunlight they are exposed to, the more they can gather, and the more of it they can convert into usable electricity.
Solar Panel Efficiency on Cloudy Days
Ok, so we have discovered that solar panels benefit from direct sunlight the most. So, what about cloudy days? Will solar panels still gather sunlight and convert it into electricity on those cloudy and overcast days? The short and simple answer here is that yes, solar panels do still work on cloudy days, and quite well all things considered, but of course, they don’t work as well on cloudy days as they do on super sunny days.
While solar panels can still gather energy and convert it into electricity on cloudy days, due to the fact that the light is indirect, rather than direct, the effect is not going to be quite the same. The most important takeaway here is that yes, solar panels still work on cloudy days, but just not as well as in direct sunlight.
Although solar panels can gather energy from indirect sunlight, beware that if the cloud cover is very heavy, they may only produce up to between 10% and 25% of their normal output (some claim to produce up to 50% of their usual output, although this is a bit questionable if we are being honest), when compared to a sunny day.
So, when it is cloudy, a lot of sunlight is scattered and absorbed by the clouds, and a lot of the light that comes through the clouds is not direct, but rather scattered, and this results in a much lower UV intensity.
It does of course depend on the amount of cloud cover present. If the cloud cover is very light, then up to 80% of the sun’s rays may still get through. On the other hand, if the cloud cover is heavy, such as those thick, dark, and black rain clouds, then you can expect those clouds to absorb up to 85% of the sunlight, which will of course greatly affect overall solar panel energy production.
At the end of the day, the answer here is that solar panels still work on cloudy days, just not nearly as well as on sunny days. Therefore, if you live in an area that sees cloud cover for a good portion of the year, you can still benefit from a solar panel array.
Sure, you might not produce any huge energy surpluses, but you can definitely still offset your own energy costs, especially over the long run.
What About Clouds & Rain?
When there are clouds out and about, there’s usually a chance that there is some rain in store. How does rain affect solar panel efficiency? Well, just like with clouds, rain can have an affect on solar panel efficiency, as heavy rain can block out some light, but that said, it doesn’t always rain when there are clouds.
Now, there is however an unseen benefit of your solar panels getting rained on that many people don’t consider. The fact here is that rain cleans your solar panels, and yes, having clean solar panels makes a huge difference.
Solar panels need to be clean and all of the cells need to be totally exposed to the sun to work properly. If the cells are covered in dirt, dust, sand, and whatever else, it’s going to greatly decrease their efficiency. Therefore, a heavy rainstorm that cleans your solar panels and allows them to absorb as much light as possible is not a bad thing.
Overall, sure, if you live in an area that sees great sunlight on a near-daily basis, then you will obviously get the most out of your solar panels, more than somebody who lives in an area where it is cloudy a lot.
However, for those of you who live in areas that don’t always have the best weather, as you can see, solar panels still work in cloudy weather. They can harness indirect light and convert it into electricity, albeit not as well as direct light. Nonetheless, you can still save money on your energy costs either way.