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Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

December 14, 2021
Image of clouds blocking the sun near a blue home with rooftop solar power, showing that solar panels work on cloudy days.

One of the biggest myths about solar panels is that solar technology doesn’t work on cloudy days. As the thinking goes, since solar panels need the sun to create electricity, they only work in areas with lots of direct sunlight.

With this article, we will help you learn more about the impact of cloud cover on solar energy production, and how well solar panels work on cloudy days, so you can make an informed decision about installing solar power on your roof.

Will Solar Panels Work on a Cloudy Day?

Yes, solar panels will still generate electricity from even the most indirect sunlight sources. They are designed to take advantage of every possible ray of sunlight that comes their way. This includes producing electricity on partly cloudy and totally clouded-over days.

If you’ve ever gotten a sunburn while working outside, even with cloud cover, then you understand that the sun’s energy still gets through clouds. Even if you can’t see the sun, that sunlight can still reach your solar panels to create energy for your home.

How Well Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

Solar panels work just fine on cloudy days, even if they’re not quite as effective at generating electricity compared to sunny days. According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, solar cells can still generate 80% of their maximum output potential, even in partly cloudy weather and overcast days.

If you live in a cloudy area, you don’t need to avoid solar power. In fact, several of the cloudier cities in the United States, including San Francisco, CA, Boston, MA, Seattle, WA, and Portland, OR, have the highest rates of solar panel adoption.

Homeowners in those sometimes cloud-covered areas realize that solar panels will still decrease their reliance upon electricity from fossil fuels and lower their electric bills. They just install the number of panels that will meet their overall energy goals, even if that number is higher because of reduced efficiency from regular cloud cover.

What Happens When My Solar Panels Don’t Produce Enough Electricity?

Clouds are a fact of life, so you need to be prepared for your local climate when you install solar panels. Instead of worrying about underperformance after your panels are installed, you should focus on designing a solar power system that meets your big-picture electricity needs.

Obviously, you want your panels to get as much sun as possible. Solar panels work best on bright, cloudless, sunny days at temperatures under 75 °F. It also helps if they’re angled to receive the maximum amount of peak sun hours possible. 

Thus, you should get a solar panel design that accounts for factors such as:

  • Geography
  • Local weather
  • Peak sun hours
  • Roof shape and orientation
  • Current electricity use
  • Future electricity needs
  • Battery storage goals
  • Net metering goals

That said, if your solar panels don’t produce enough electricity on a cloudy day, your home can still draw power from the utility grid, keeping the lights on and your appliances running.

Your ultimate goal should be to install the right amount of solar panels to ensure you get all the electricity you need during the daytime, no matter the cloud cover. This starts by talking to a licensed solar installer like Palmetto, who will review those factors and create the best solar power system for your home.

What Happens When You Get Lots of Bad Weather?

Admittedly, there will be times when your solar panels don’t get enough sunlight during the day to generate the electricity your home needs. A large storm system could cover your region with rain and dark clouds for several days, and those are poor conditions for solar power generation.

Luckily, you have two primary options available to make sure you always have power at home:

  1. Battery Storage - On the days when your panels generate more electricity than your home uses, excess power can get stored in batteries. You can then use that stored electricity at times when your panels don’t generate enough electricity to power your home.
  2. Connect to the Grid - With very few exceptions, every home with solar panels is still connected to the utility grid in their area. Your home will use electricity from the grid at times when your panels don’t generate enough electricity, or you’re out of stored electricity in your batteries.

Thus, you will always have access to electricity when you install solar panels, even if you don’t create it yourself.

Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days

Despite the myths that persist about solar panels, they will still create electricity on cloudy days. Yes, panels work better on sunny days, but the possibility of cloud cover shouldn’t scare you away from getting solar power for your home.

If you live in a cloudy area, an experienced solar company can help you design a solar power system that maximizes the amount of electricity your home can create from the sunlight that’s available.

By going solar with Palmetto, you’ll work with experienced professionals who will handle all of the details regarding design, installation, permitting, and more. We’ll design your solar panel system, see if you need solar battery storage, and deliver comprehensive post-installation services to give you reliable energy and peace of mind.

Get started today by using our free Solar Design Tool, and find out how much you can save when you make the switch.

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going solar with Palmetto

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