Will Solar Panels Work on a Cloudy Day?

Feb 20, 2013   //   by Russell   //   Solar Panel Questions  //  No Comments

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When the clouds roll in, a big question is always: will solar panels work on a cloudy day?

Will Solar Panels Work on a Cloudy DayWhen someone asks you “are solar panel systems affected by cloudy days?” you’ll most probably answer in the negative.

To an extent, you’re right – largely because solar panel systems are not as efficient on a cloudy day as they are when the sun is shining.

In fact, this efficiency may go down by as much as 80 percent. The point is that during a cloudy day the solar panels will still work, as explained here.

How Will Solar Panels Work on a Cloudy Day?

Before answering this question, it’s vital to understand how a solar panel system works first.

Solar panels consist of an array of photo-voltaic cells which hold single semi-conducting cells manufactured specifically for capturing the energy produced by the sun. The energy captured is then converted into electric energy which runs the household appliances.

The sun reaches the solar panel via a process called radiation. When there are no clouds or shade obstructing the sun’s rays, there is full radiation reaching the solar panel. Clouds reduce the intensity of the radiation reaching the cells, but still some rays pass through the clouds to reach the photovoltaic cells found in the solar panel.

During cloudy days, the solar panel system is able to absorb about 5 – 50 percent of the radiation that is emitted by the sun. This percentage varies according to the thickness of the cloud cover.

With this in mind, it is best to fix your solar panel systems so they maximize the sun’s exposure. They need to be fitted in such a way that they avoid shades and utilize direct sunlight. Avoid hard shadows arising from surrounding objects such as tall buildings and trees.

What Do You do if Your Solar Panel System Isn’t Fully Efficient?

Getting 50% or less of the solar produced from your systems may not be enough to maintain your household appliances and lighting. There are two options you have when faced with this situation:

1. Use the grid

The grid works in such a way that any extra energy that you don’t use in the household is stored in the grid and is made available for you when you need it. The more power you save on the grid, the more credits you earn and the more you are entitled to.

When you live on the grid, you have no need to worry because you can make use of your utility to get sufficient energy supply. This gets much easier when you have credits with the utility company, because the charges will be low. This can help to reduce your electric bill as well.

2. Use backup batteries

You can use a backup battery pack to supply energy when the solar is not functioning to its full potential. As long as you have enough power stored in the batteries, you can have your appliances running properly without any hitch.

So, the answer to the question whether solar panels work on a cloudy day is “yes” – but the efficiency will not be the maximum. It is best to have a backup plan that will run your appliances so that on cloudy days, you still have plenty of electricity to power your house with.

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