Do Solar Panels Still Shine on Cloudy Days?

Joe Brennan
Mar 20, 2023

Have you ever wondered, “Do solar panels work on cloudy days?” If you’re considering adopting this sustainable energy solution, it’s a crucial question to ask.

In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll address this question, breaking down the mechanics of solar panels, their functionality during cloudy weather, and options to maximise their efficiency. Let’s start this enlightening journey.

Demystifying Solar Panels: What Are They?

Solar panels are game-changing devices that convert sunlight, a plentiful and renewable energy source, into electricity. They’re a key component in the shift towards green and sustainable living, helping reduce reliance on fossil fuels and decrease carbon footprint.

These panels comprise many smaller units called solar cells, often made from silicon. Solar cells are powerhouses, converting sunlight into electricity and powering your home or business.

Illuminating the Process: How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels are marvels of modern technology, but how do they turn sunlight into usable power? Let’s shine some light on this process:

Step 1: Absorption of Sunlight

Each solar cell in a panel is designed to absorb sunlight. The absorbed sunlight acts as a source of energy to stimulate the movement of electrons in the cell.

Step 2: Generation of Electric Current

The movement of these electrons due to sunlight exposure creates an electrical current. This current, however, is in a raw form called direct current (DC).

Step 3: Conversion to Usable Power

The DC power is converted into alternating current (AC) power via an inverter, a key component of a solar energy system. AC power is the form of electricity most household and commercial appliances use.

Step 4: Power Distribution

Once converted, this electricity is distributed throughout your property, powering everything from lights to appliances.

A Cloudy Issue: Do Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather?

The answer is yes. Solar panels do work on cloudy days, albeit with reduced efficiency. The panels can still absorb diffused sunlight, which reaches the ground on cloudy days. While their output may decrease compared to a sunny day, they don’t stop working entirely.

Estimating Output: How Much Power Can a Solar PV System Produce During Cloudy Days?

The power produced by a solar panel system on a cloudy day largely depends on the density of the clouds and the type of solar panel. Solar panels may produce around 10-25% of their normal power output. However, certain advanced solar panels designed for low light conditions can reach up to 40% efficiency.

Battery Backup: Why Should I Get a Solar Battery for Cloudy Days?

Solar battery storage is a sensible investment for those cloudy days when your solar panels aren’t performing at their best. These batteries store excess power generated on sunny days, providing a reserve of electricity for use when sunlight is limited.

Net Metering: An Alternative for Battery Storage

Net metering is another effective way to ensure you have power on cloudy days. It’s a system that allows you to feed any excess power your panels generate back into the electricity grid. You’re then credited for this power, which can be used to draw electricity from the grid when your solar panels aren’t producing enough, such as during cloudy or night-time periods.

Optimising Your Solar Energy System for Cloudy Conditions

To maximise your solar energy system’s performance in Ireland’s often cloudy climate, consider the following tips:

Choose the right panels: Opt for higher efficiency rates and better low-light performance, such as monocrystalline or thin-film panels.

Proper installation: Ensure your panels are installed at the optimal angle and direction to capture maximum sunlight.

Regular maintenance: Keep your panels clean and debris-free to maintain their efficiency.

Final Thoughts

While the performance of solar panels may dip on cloudy days, they do not cease functioning. With the right setup, such as solar batteries or net metering, you can maintain a steady power supply, making solar panels a reliable choice for renewable energy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Power Do Solar Panels Produce on a Cloudy Day?

As mentioned, solar panels can produce between 10-25% of their normal output on a cloudy day. This percentage can increase to 40% with specific solar panels designed for low-light conditions.

Do Solar Panels Work in the Shade?

Solar panels do work in the shade but at a much-reduced efficiency. In shaded conditions, it’s crucial to have a system in place, such as microinverters or power optimisers, to maximise each panel’s power output.

Do Solar Panels Work on Dull Days?

Yes, solar panels can still produce electricity on dull days. Though the output may be lower than on bright, sunny days, diffused sunlight is still a viable power source for solar panels.

What Type of Solar Panels Work Best in Cloudy Conditions?

Thin-film panels and certain types of crystalline silicon panels, such as monocrystalline panels, perform better in cloudy conditions. They are more efficient at capturing diffused sunlight compared to other types of panels.

Do Solar Panels Work in Winter?

Absolutely! Solar panels can work effectively in winter, especially if there’s snow, which can reflect sunlight and enhance the panel’s performance. The colder temperatures can actually improve solar panel efficiency as long as the panels are not completely covered in snow

Can solar panels work with moonlight?

Although PV panels are light-sensitive, the amount of energy moonlight produces is negligible. They require sunlight to generate significant amounts of electricity.

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*FYI, parts of this blog post were drafted by artificial technlogy. But rest assured, it's been thoroughly researched, edited, reviewed and me & my team.
Author Fahad Zahid
Founder @ Going Solar

Joe Brennan, the founder of Going Solar, is dedicated to making solar power mainstream in Ireland and meet SEAI objectives. With a focus on affordability and sustainability, he is bringing renewable energy solutions to homes, reducing costs & environmental impact.