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Do Solar Panels Work at Night or On Cloudy Days?

18th August 2021  

Solar panels are rapidly becoming widespread for their eco-friendly means of electricity generation. The speedy adaptation of solar panels is visible from the fact that India had achieved its target of 20 GW capacity for 2022, four years ahead of schedule. This push for renewable energy, backed by the government, is resulting in higher solar panel installations. That said, these solar panels entail considerable investments.

About 70% of India’s solar power operations are undertaken by the commercial sector. Hence, this growing anticipation of solar power breeds some questions related to its functioning. The most common query is whether solar panels work in a cloudy atmosphere? In the backdrop of a volatile climate, this legitimate question needs a rich explanation. The short answer is – YES, solar panels do work under a cloudy sky.

Read on to know more about how solar panels work in this case.

Will a cloudy day affect solar energy generation?

Everyone knows that solar panels generate electricity by utilizing the energy of sun rays emitted from the sky. Considering this fact, how will it function on a cloudy day? A cloudy day will certainly affect the process of solar energy generation as the panels will be less efficient. It is quite surprising to know that the regions with fairly cloudy climates have substantial solar panel installations.

The density of the clouds and the quality of solar panels largely affect solar energy generation. Even on a cloudy day, solar radiation can penetrate through the clouds. Therefore, solar panels can function with a reduced capacity.

The efficiency of solar panels can drop in the range of 10-25 % compared with sunny days. This means that it can still give about 70% output on a cloudy day. It is important to remember the following points about a cloudy day and solar energy generation.

  • Solar panels are capable of capturing diffused and reflected lights, thereby functioning over a broad range of the solar spectrum.
  • It will take pretty dense clouds to completely block the sun rays – quite a rare occurrence.
  • It is the cost of electricity, not the capacity of solar energy generations that plays behind adopting solar panel installation.
  • The investment of solar panels is worth commercial operation due to the higher cost of traditional electricity.

A unique effect of the cloudy days

Although the cloudy days cause diminished solar energy generation, it is not always true. In the world of solar panels, there is a phenomenon known as the ‘cloud edge effect’. It is when a cloudy day culminates into higher electricity production. The science behind this effect works as follows:

  • When the sun is behind the clouds, the sunlight falls on the edges of the cloud
  • This causes the refraction of the light, and the overall solar energy gets magnified
  • Such magnified light is very intense in nature and is captured by the solar panels
  • This ultimately causes the panels to generate more electricity than the ordinary days
  • This sudden surge in the power generation compensates for the diminished efficiency of some cloudy days

Therefore, contrary to popular belief, cloudy days are not always troublesome for solar panels.

Also read: How Do Solar Panels Generate Electricity?

Are sunny days really beneficial?

It is well known that solar panels can achieve maximum solar energy generation on a sunny day. However, scorching temperatures can be detrimental to the functioning of a solar panel. It does not require hot weather for a solar panel to generate electricity. In fact, a moderate climate combining sunny and cold days is optimum for its energy generation. The solar panel generates less voltage and thereby becomes less efficient in the production of electricity.

Therefore, this clears the misconception that the stronger the sunlight greater will be the solar energy generation.

What do solar panels use to generate electricity?

The cloudy day effect on solar panels can be understood appropriately by understanding how the solar panels generate electricity. Although it is said that sunlight is central to the functioning of a solar panel, it’s actually daylight.

The solar panel is made up of a large number of solar cells, also called photovoltaic cells. Whenever these cells are exposed to photons, the solar energy particles are converted to electrical energy. This is known as the photovoltaic effect.

A single solar cell generates around only 2-Watt power. A solar panel array consists of a large number of solar cells. Therefore, hundred-to-thousand-kilowatt electricity can be generated with the help of solar panels.

The solar energy is further transmitted to a solar inverter which converts it to AC. In India, the grid synchronization pattern of solar energy generation is prevalent. In this, the power generated is transmitted to the grid of the electricity provider. Feed-in traffic meters keep track of the electricity exported.

How to compensate for the drop in output?

Like sunny days, the solar panels do not deliver peak solar energy generation on cloudy days. With the drop in electricity production being in the range of 10-25 percent. The overall reduction is minimal and does not hamper solar harvest. Despite this, solar storage methods are available if you wish to make up for the loss of cloudy days. The two are battery systems and net metering.

  • Battery system: This is an off-grid solar system in which the generated solar energy is stored in a battery. The battery comes in various capacities and may provide a backup of up to 24 hours.
  • Net metering: In this system, the rooftop solar system is connected to the local power grid. The electricity produced by solar panels is transmitted to the grid. At the same time, the customer can draw electricity from the grid if required. The net energy usage is the difference between electricity produced by the solar system and the electricity consumed from the grid.

To sum up, a cloudy day should never prevent you from enjoying the light produced by solar panels. Waaree Energies, being the number one the top solar panels manufacturer in India, offers several high-efficiency solar modules. These solar modules are built to hold up in any weather condition. Hence, choose Waaree for your solar module needs and start saving on your electricity expenses.

Further Read: What do Solar Panels do at Night?

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