Do solar panels work on a cloudy day?

Do solar panels work on a cloudy day?
26 May

As the name suggests, solar panels work off solar energy, sunlight that hits the surface of the photovoltaic (PV) cells present at-large in the panel. While we rely on sunlight for a lot more basic processes that are very crucial for life on earth, life actually doesn’t stop when its cloudy out there. So, do solar panels work on a cloudy day or does it stop working altogether since there is technically no sunlight to work with? We’ll look into this question and answer it, as simply as possible, to make sure you understand the basic mechanics involved in the generation of electricity via a solar panel.

However, before we answer this question, it's imperative we understand how a solar panel actually works. So, starting with the functioning of your average run-of-the-mill solar panel, we’ll lead off into whether solar panels work on cloudy days or not, and what is the technical reason for them operating even during cloudy days.

How do solar panels actually work?

Solar panels don’t actually generate the power, it’s the PV cells in the panel that do the heavy lifting. The PV cells generate electricity when sunlight hits the surface of the panel. This raises the temperature at the atomic level, exciting the electrons and creating a stream of electrons which in turn, is electricity that is then converted (by the solar inverter) from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current), which is what our power boxes actually use.

With the operation at the most basic level now understandable, now we can go about answering the question: do solar panels work on cloudy days?

Do solar panels work on cloudy days?

The short answer is yes. Solar panels do work during cloudy days. And for its answer, lets look at the first part: life does not stop when its cloudy out there. Similarly, power generation for solar panels does NOT stop when its cloudy out.

Sunlight is crucial enough for life processes on this planet that we can’t afford and survive a blackout from that big star. Even something as deadly as nuclear weapons aren’t all that troublesome; what makes them particularly concerning is the fact that they might bring about a nuclear winter, where the planet will be effectively cut off from its source of solar energy. And that is a properly scary prospect.

So, it would be fair to assume that even during cloudy days, there is sunlight present. How else would I be able to see during a cloudy day? Because if the sun was properly hidden by clouds, the visibility conditions would be that of night time and not slightly dialled back. Which means that even during heavy clouds, sunlight is technically present.

So, do solar panels work on cloudy days? Yes, they do. Since there is sunlight present even during cloudy days, solar panels will continue to work. Because again, no sunlight is a big problem, and even if there is a meagre amount of sunlight that is present in the atmosphere, you best believe solar panels will work even during such weather conditions.

Reduced solar energy generation

However, the important part here to remember is that energy generation is directly proportional to the essential amount of sunlight present in the atmosphere. This means that during cloudy days, you are going to notice a drop in the energy generation of your solar energy system; and that all can be chalked up to the fact that the clouds stop the sunlight from properly reaching the solar panels, and whatever solar energy the panels do receive is all that they have to work with. And since sunlight is low, solar energy generation will also be low.

However, the important thing here is that the solar panels will function. They will generate electricity, no matter how little sunlight they have to work with. The efficiency will decrease, but that is dependent on the weather conditions and is not related to the solar panel itself. The answer to the question do solar panels work on cloudy days is simple: yes, however with low sunlight conditions, power generation will also be low.

Complete solar energy system by Beacon Energy

Solar energy is the way forward. As one of the only truly clean renewable energy sources, solar energy is poised to become the next generation’s fuel for powering the world. As such, for your partner in this solar journey, let Beacon Energy help you out with its complete solar energy solutions that deliver far beyond your expectations and bring you the best of what the solar industry has to offer.