Solar panels are one of the most important developments in modernizing our energy consumption. That's why so many homeowners and businesses are opting for solar energy. Using photovoltaic effect, solar panels can convert sunlight into clean and affordable energy source. Yet, often questions arise about its reliability.
Considering the fact that solar installations are a premium investment and often involve huge initial cost, the sight of clouds blocking your solar panels’ immense potential won’t be pleasant. And when you’re depending on sunlight to power your home, you might worry about bad weather ruining your day.
So, how much impact do cloudy skies actually have on solar energy output? How does rain affect solar panels? Are there ways to ensure that the power keeps flowing even when the weather is not as favourable?
Solar panels need Sun… but probably not as much as you think
So, have you ever experienced sunburn or got sun-tanned on an overcast day? If yes, then you already know that it takes more than just a few clouds to completely block out the sun. It may not be as bright or as warm as direct sunlight, but it’s there. And that means it’s hitting your solar panels to keep them working. However the amount of electricity generated depends on the density of cloud coverage, so your system’s production will be inconsistent and generally reduced on those gloomy days.
However, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), solar panels can generate about 80% of their maximum power output even in partly cloudy weather.
It’s a common misconception that solar panels are ideally suited to hot and sunny environment, which is untrue. It’s important to mention here that, cloudy and rainy climates are often popular places for solar energy installations. And the popularity of solar panels is driven by the cost of electricity and not the amount of sunlight a city receives. Many of the top cities to adopt solar across India (or even considering global solar outreach) are not particularly sunny locations. Rather, they have high electricity rates, with the result that homeowners reap major benefits in terms of energy bill savings and a quick return on their investments.
In some cases, clouds can actually result in better panel performance than standard sunny weather. A cloud can reflect or sometimes even magnify sunlight, which results in additional power output from your solar panels. While, rain on the other hand actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt.
Energy storage options: Need Sun when it’s not out there?
Depending on your energy requirements and the number of panels you have, an occasional drop in output will likely not mean that much. But still if you are looking to store some sun for a rainy day or don’t want your energy requirements hampered by weather gods, you are not totally out of luck.
With cloudy skies hampering your panels’ energy output, you still have options to make your system work. With net metering you can maintain a connection to the electric grid and draw energy from local utility when you need to. Or, you can use a battery-based solar storage system. These two options make solar energy an all-weather solution for your home.
Your energy requirements just need careful consideration in advance. The key here is to plan and size your system accordingly when considering a solar installation. Whether it’s net metering, the right solar energy storage option or even pairing an electric car with your system.