Are solar panels effective during cloudy days and at night? Is it worth installing them?

Renewable energy powers all types of devices. Whether they come from electronic recycling or the latest and most recent technological devices. Solar panels are the preferred choice when it comes to using this type of energy because sunlight is the most accessible to everyone. However, do solar panels work on cloudy days or during seasons of less sun exposure? This is a basic question to know if it is worth installing in certain locations.

First of all, we must remember that photovoltaic solar panels can use direct and indirect sunlight to generate electrical energy. Obviously, they are most productive and efficient when they absorb direct sunlight on the sunniest days. However, they also work on cloudy days, even when the light is reflected or partially obstructed by clouds. Their capacity will decrease, and on average they will generate 10-25% of their energy production on days with high cloud cover.

Large amounts of clouds usually bring rain, and unlike what we may imagine, the rain actually helps solar panels to be more effective. This phenomenon is because rain washes away any dirt or dust that has accumulated on the panels, cleaning them so they can absorb light more efficiently. An important fact to keep in mind.

How do the solar panels work at night?

Unlike cloudy days, solar panels do not work at night. The explanation comes from a scientific principle called the photovoltaic effect, which is that solar cells are activated by sunlight, generating electric current. Without this light, the effect is not activated, and therefore no electrical energy is generated. This information should be taken into account in order not to force its use and to extend its useful life.

To assess whether the panels are still useful and produce energy is to look at the public lights. EcoWatch recommends as a general rule of thumb to note that if streetlights or other public lights are turned off, on cloudy days or at night, the panels will produce power. Likewise, if they are illuminated it is probably too dark for your solar panel system to work.

What about snow, do solar panels work during snowy days?

Just as during cloudy days and with diminished sunlight, solar panels do not operate at peak efficiency during snowy days. Snow is usually not a problem because it is easily blown off the panels by the wind. It is only of concern when the snowfall is so extreme that it can bury them. The weight of the snow can compromise the integrity of the panel structures. Therefore, caution is suggested.

Recommendations for solar energy storage on cloudy days and nights

During peak sunlight hours, the solar panels are able to generate more energy than is needed at the time. With this surplus energy, additional electricity can be provided during cloudy days or at night. There are two methods of storing this energy for future use. The first option is to store the surplus energy in a solar battery, and the second option is to use a net metering program.

When it comes to storing the surplus, a solar battery is added to the residential solar installation. There, any excess electricity can be collected and used at times of suboptimal solar exposure such as nights or cloudy days. These batteries allow your solar photovoltaic system to operate throughout the day. However there are some drawbacks to consider such as the total cost of the solar system, the batteries take up some space and several will be required. 

On the other hand, using a net metering program allows us to transmit any excess energy from our system to the municipal power grid, receiving credits from the utility company. These credits can be used to offset electrical costs that serve during cloudy days or at night. This way there is no power shortage in homes. It is a cost-effective option, but it should be considered that not always breaking even, it is possible to owe money to suppliers. It is also not a program that is offered by all utilities.

The use of renewable energy will always be a good alternative to reduce polluting sources. Therefore, our commitment to the environment motivates us to recycle computers and use the funds to donate computers to underprivileged children and families. To date, we have already contributed to a more competitive future for children in our community and in more developed countries.

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