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What happens to solar powered homes during overcast weather?

15 Aug 2017

Posted in General, Residential by Alba Energy

You might be wondering if a solar power system can produce energy on cloudy days. This article is designed to address a common misconception that clouds prevent solar panels from working.

Turning sunlight into energy

Solar panels are formally known as “photovoltaics” or “PV” for short. The name comes from the Greek “phos” meaning light and “volt” which is the unit of electro-motive force. PV systems absorb photons from sunlight and convert them into electrical energy that can be used within your home.

Sunlight on cloudy days

If you’ve ever walked down the street on a rainy or cloudy day, and then gone out for another walk at nighttime, you know that your city doesn’t get dark just because the sky is cloudy.

And just like UV light can cause sunburn on overcast days, clouds can reflect sunlight and allow it to reach the roof of your home.
Yes, solar panels will continue to work on cloudy days, though they will produce energy at a lower rate, between 10 and 25% of their normal production on sunny days.

Effect of temperatures

A solar power system may also benefit from cooler temperatures that are often present on cloudy days according to solar researchers. This is because of the semiconductor electronic materials used in solar panels, which work best when temperatures aren’t too hot.

Power at night

When you install solar panels on your home, the system gets wired into your breaker box or main electrical panel, and from there the system can provide power to anything connected to the electrical circuit. A connection is also made to your home’s power meter, and from there it can both send and receive energy from the local power grid.
This “bidirectional” connection is very similar to a standard power meter, except that it’s designed to measure electricity flow in two directions.

Since there is no sunshine at night, you’ll buy electricity from the grid, unless your installation includes batteries for nighttime storage. But although batteries are becoming popular thanks to the advancement of electric cars, most people do not use battery-based solar systems. Instead, most installs use the bidirectional grid connection mentioned above.

See more answers to commonly asked questions about solar on the Alba Energy solar FAQs page.

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