Last updated on September 26th, 2019
The fact that solar panels are built to derive energy from the sun makes many people wonder how they would react in different weather conditions. Well, here is how solar panels fair in other climates.
How Solar Panels Work in Various Weather Conditions (An Analysis)
The question of how different weather conditions affects the performance of solar panels is one that you should have before deciding to install one. You should understand how changes in weather will affect the energy your panels generate.
The relationship between solar panels and weather is one that plays a significant role in how much power you get.
The solar panels are made in a way that they absorb solar energy from the sun and convert it into electricity which we can use. The amount of energy the solar cells generate is directly proportional to the amount and intensity of sunlight they are exposed to.
However, this applies when all other factors, like the quality of the panels and others, are held constant.
Having a clear picture of the effect of weather changes to energy generated by the panels will help you make an informed decision when it comes to solar power.
In this article, I aim to answer questions you may have in your mind on solar panels and weather. To better understand their relationship, let’s answer the following most frequently asked questions:
How do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels design is in such a way that they receive sunlight particles (photons) and convert them into electricity. When the sunlight hits the surface of the panels, it is directly converted into direct current (DC) which in turn, the inverter converts into alternating current (AC) power.
One big misconception by most of us is that solar panels can only work in direct sunlight.
Well, although built to derive its energy from the sun, it doesn’t have to be direct sunlight strictly. Most panels are made in a way that they can still absorb sunlight particles even when the sun is not direct.
This now brings us to our next question…
See Related: Solar Panel Lifespan Guide
Do Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather?
Well, just as I have hinted in the above paragraph, solar panels do work even when there is no direct sunlight. Although sunlight is the source of solar energy, sunlight particles can still reach the surface of the solar panels even during cloudy days. What this means is that the panels will always be able to convert these particles into electricity.
The only thing that would change in the case of a cloudy day is the amount of solar power generated.
During sunny and bright sky days, the panels can generate electricity at full capacity as there will be full exposure to sunlight.
However, in cloudy days, the amount of power the solar panels produce will decrease depending on how dense the cloud cover is.
The denser the cloud cover, then the less the energy generation. Therefore, although we conclude that solar panels don’t require direct sunlight to produce electricity, we can clearly state that the cloud cover will determine the amount of power generated.
To be precise, solar panels will produce an average of 10-20% of what they would provide on a hot sunny day. This means that they produce electricity way much lower than what they ought to have generated.
So, if your question was, “do solar panels work on cloudy days?” then the answer is yes, but at a much lower capacity.
Do Solar Panels Work During Rain?
Rainy days are another time when many people would question if at all, the solar panels do function. The answer to this is somehow similar to the previous answer. In terms of operations, the solar panels are designed to withstand the effects of rain without getting all spoiled.
Before the release of solar panels into the market, they must pass the test of resilience under harsh weather conditions.
Each solar panel must be tested for functionality under extreme weather conditions before they can receive the Underwriter’s Laboratories certification (UL). Therefore, when it comes to rain, most solar panels will still work correctly during the storm. In terms of power production, solar panels will still generate electricity even on rainy days, although at a lower capacity.
Since the photovoltaic panels can use direct or indirect sunlight, during a rainy day, the cells will absorb sunlight particles scattered in the atmosphere. The power that the panels generate will be directly dependent on the clouds and how heavy the rain is.
As a matter of fact, in Seattle and Portland, which are among the rainiest and cloudiest cities in America, solar panel installations have increased.
This shows that solar panels can efficiently use the diffuse sun particles that reach the earth to generate power still. One advantage of rain is that it washes the dust and dirt that accumulates on the panels, making them even more efficient after the rains.
See Related: Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Do Solar Panels Work During Snow?
Contrary to what many of us may think, the fact is that solar panels do work well during winter as long as the panels are not covered in snow. Although the efficiency of the solar panels during snow will reduce, the panels can still produce enough energy to serve your household.
Cold temperatures tend to favor the operation of the solar systems.
During winter, the snow which we know is typically white, reflects the little sunlight to the solar panels and thus improving performance. In winter, the production of the solar panels can only be hindered entirely if the snow covers the panels.
However, having reliable battery storage will significantly help you ensure that you don’t run out of power. With solar storage, you can store the energy produced during the small sunlight intervals and use it when it’s completely dark. Since winter lasts only for a few months, you can compensate for those dark days when the sun shines again.
However, although the drawbacks on solar systems caused by winter are minimal, there are several things that you ought to consider when installing a system.
See Related: How to Clean Your Solar Panels
How Do Solar Power Plants Work at Night?
The basic concept of solar panels is that they draw their energy from the sun. If there is no sun, that means the solar panels won’t work.
Therefore, the answer to this question is “No,” solar panels don’t generate power at night. But one would ask, how do solar panels work during moonlight?
The answer to this will still be no. Whether it’s night or during moonlight, solar panels don’t work at night. The reason why solar panels can generate power from the moonlight is this; the moon does not produce its energy.
With solar panels, the energy generated when sun photons hit the surface of the panel, charging the electrons on them to generate electricity. If there are no photons, then there is no solar power generation. In the case of moonlight, the moon offers light when the sunlight hits its surface and illuminates. It is merely a reflection f the sunlight.
For this reason, the photons that would reach the earth service are too negligible to generate any power. However, all is not lost. With the sun shining during the day, you can maximize on this by having a robust and reliable solar battery storage.
We can use battery storage or the net metering method to ensure we have enough energy dispatched at night.
See Related: Solar Farm Land Requirements
Best Solar Panels for Cloudy Days
When choosing a solar panel to install, an important aspect you can ignore is the weather conditions in your area. If you come from a region that is cloudy and receives less amount of sunlight, then you should look for a solar panel that is designed for such conditions.
For example, it has been suggested that between crystalline and thin film solar panels, the small film solar panels work better in cloudy conditions than their counterparts.
Here is a list of what we consider best solar panels in the market for cloudy conditions.
The 4.2 stars rated solar panel in Amazon is a great solar panel for cloudy and cold weather conditions. Some of the distinctive features of this kind of solar panels include:
- The solar panel is durable as its build using marine-grade components.
- Weatherproof design and performs efficiently in various conditions, such as cloudy, hot, and cold environments
Rollable, lightweight, portable, flexible, and eco-friendly
- Grommets for tie-downs, and wrap-around fastener for secure storage
- Friendly to use and comes with an RA-2 (12V female CLA) and RA-11
The 4.4 stars rated solar panel is among the best solar panels that are ideal for cloud and cold weather conditions. This Renogy solar package comes with 2pcs of portable and foldable 50W solar panels, a built-in kickstand and a 20A waterproof charger controller.
The main features of this type of solar panels include:
- Corrosion-resistant, adjustable aluminum stand with a heavy-duty handle
- Ideal output is 500Watt hours per day
- They can work with lithium, gel, sealed, and flooded batteries. Additionally, the charge controller comes with an LCD for showing operating Information.
- 20A in-built 5-stage solar charge controller that provides overcharge protection
- It’s a low-voltage system that helps to avoid electric shock hazards
With 4.2 stars rating from 1450 customers reviews in Amazon, RAVPower Solar Charger 16W solar panel is one of the best solar panels for cloudy outdoor travel. The thin film solar panels experience minimal effects on shading and clouds.
Here are other characteristics of these panels:
- High Energy Conversion: It has highly-efficient solar cells that can convert a maximum of 21.5-23.5% of sunlight energy into electricity. The device can charge two USB gadgets simultaneously.
- Compact Size: these panels are among the most compact solar panels we have on the market.
- Charge Smarter: the use of iSmart technology enables it to automatically adjust to the connected gadgets and provide the ideal charging current. This minimizes the charging time.
- SMART IC: Smart IC frequency technology detects all connected devices’ input and distributes current output accordingly for up to 3.2A.
The AllPowers panel is 3.9 stars rated in Amazon and one of the most efficient panels in the market. Made in the US, this solar cell has an efficiency level of 23.5%, which is much higher than most monocrystalline cells in the market. Apart from the high efficiency, the panels come with the following feature:
- Superior durability: The panel is much durable than the traditional panels.
- Flexible, bendable panel: It can be bent into a 30-degree arc to fit on a boat, tent, car, cabin, trailers, trucks, and an uneven surface
- Powerful and Lightweight: The solar cell packs 50W with its light weight of merely 2.4lbs(1.1kg).
Offers 18-month guarantee
With 4.9 stars rating on Amazon, kinverch 100 Watts 12 Volts solar panel is an excellent product for cloudy days. The solar panel offers numerous and incredible features that make it one of the most popular solar panels in the market. Firstly, with its composition, kinverch 100 Watts is designed from monocrystalline solar cells of high quality that offer you optimum efficiency per space.
Other key features of this solar panel include:
- Durability: The solar panel is known to survive high-speed wind, snow loads, and is less affected by harsh weather aspects.
- High output: kinverch solar panel has a conversion efficiency that can go up to 20.5% to 22.5% with a maximum output of 500W per day.
- Warranty: It offers a warranty of 6 years on material and design and a 25-year warranty output.
- Ease of installation: The product is easy to install as it’s compatible with the rail mounting system, as well as the Z-bracket mounting system.
- The aluminum corrosion resistant design that is also waterproof makes the solar panel an ideal product for any weather condition.
Kinverch 100 Watts 12V solar panel has an excellent performance that enables it to work efficiently even on cloudy days when there is minimal sunlight.
These are some other top solar panels to consider. These are the best performers in general. The above are great for cloudy conditions as they can easily be set up from different angles and perspectives.
How Tree Shade Affects Solar Panels?
Even a little shade on the solar panel will significantly affect its output. Trees around your compound could affect the amount of solar power you get from your panels, especially if the shading is dense. This is because the tree leaves will block direct sunlight from hitting the solar panels and making them only receive the diffuse photons.
When even one cell is under the shade, it will affect the output of the rest of the batteries. That because they are all connected in series.
For example, if one cell is covered in a 36-cell solar panel, the output of the entire system will be brought down to the level of the shaded cell.
It is wise to use microinverters to limit the effect of the shade to avoid this. The microinverters ensures that only the shaded cells will be affected and allows the other cells to generate electricity optimally.
See Related: Solar Battery Charging Basics
Conclusion on Solar Panels and Weather
It is very clear from our discussion that different weather conditions will affect the output of a solar panel. The relationship between the solar panels and weather is therefore depicted by the different output when the weather changes.
I hope that this article will help you make the best choice of solar panels for your area. Have other questions on solar energy? Download our solar energy questions and answers handbook to get all the answers you need.
How does the weather in your area affect your solar power production? Let us know in the comments below.
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