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How Well Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy and Rainy Days?

November 23, 2023


One of the most common questions is “What happens to my solar panels when it’s cloudy or raining?”. There are still some misconceptions about how solar panels perform during less-than-perfect sunny days. On Cloudy Days On cloudy or partially cloudy days, solar panels will still produce energy, just at a ...

One of the most common questions is “What happens to my solar panels when it’s cloudy or raining?”. There are still some misconceptions about how solar panels perform during less-than-perfect sunny days.

On Cloudy Days

On cloudy or partially cloudy days, solar panels will still produce energy, just at a reduced level compared to full sun. Clouds block some of the sun’s rays from directly hitting the panels, so less electricity can be harvested.

  • Panels continue to absorb diffuse light that reflects off clouds as well as any direct light still striking them. This leads to generation, just at a lower output than peak sunny conditions.
  • The level of reduction depends on how thick the clouds are. A few thin clouds may decrease production by 10-20%, while an overcast sky cutting off most sun could lower output by 50–70%.
  • Modern solar inverters have cloud tracking technology built in to maximize energy harvesting even when clouds intermittently pass in front of the sun. Output will fluctuate up and down as clouds move.

So in summary, cloudy skies mean your panels are still actively producing renewable solar energy, just at a decreased rate proportional to cloud coverage blocking direct illumination. There is no need to worry about clouds ruining your system.

On Rainy Days

When it starts raining, solar panels are able to continue producing power as normal for the duration of the precipitation. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Rainwater dripping on the panels functions similarly to diffuse light off clouds by refracting sunlight that falls onto the absorbent solar cells underneath. This allows electricity generation to continue, rain or shine.
  • Advanced anti-reflective panel coatings mean the majority of rainwater beads up and rolls right off the surface without hampering solar absorption. Only a tiny amount adheres enough to potentially block a cell.
  • Modern solar panel glass has a special textured design that aids water runoff without saturation. Combined with their tilt angle, gravity facilitates quick drainage without pooling to minimize absorbent surface coverage.
  • Any momentary reduction in output from raindrops landing is quickly offset once they sheet away. So overall energy production levels typically stay consistent through rain showers and storms.

The bottom line is solar panels are designed to withstand exterior impacts like precipitation and keep harvesting renewable solar energy with no downtime from rain. Their self-cleaning effect from the rain can sometimes even boost power levels!

Why Panel Performance Isn’t Affected

Solar panel technology has evolved substantially since the early days of solar power to ensure consistent performance no matter the weather conditions. Let’s explore some key reasons:

  • Durable Solar Panel Glass
    Solar panel glass is continuously strengthened through a tempering process that adds resilience to impacts. This protects the photovoltaic cells underneath from damage during hailstorms or debris impact. The glass is also specially textured to efficiently channel rainfall away.
  • Sealed Encapsulation Technology
    Each individual solar cell is completely encapsulated between the front panel glass and a backing layer using weatherproof sealants during manufacturing. This sealing process creates an impenetrable barrier keeping moisture out and maximizing longevity.
  • Fail-Safe Solar Inverters
    Grid-tie solar inverters are designed to immediately shut off any stray voltage in the system during outage conditions like a storm for firefighter safety. Once the skies clear, the DC-to-AC inverters automatically restart the system without intervention. Advanced maximum power point tracking modes also optimize energy yields continuously.
  • Solar Panels are Self-Cleaning
    The natural water sheeting and drying effect of rainfall helps keep solar panels clear of dust, pollen, and debris. This maintains a high transmission of sunlight into the photovoltaic cells without the need for manual cleaning. Some solar companies even claim panels may produce slightly more power right after rainfall due to cleaner surfaces!

Through thoughtful engineering, modern solar technology ensures your renewable energy system holds up reliably through all types of weather. As a result, homeowners can feel confident investing in a solar array that will produce substantial energy cost savings year-round without interruption from typical climate variability.

Other Solar Misconceptions

Now that you understand solar panels keep harvesting power through clouds and rain, let’s address a few other common myths:

  • Solar Panels Stop Working When it’s Cold
    While colder temperatures can slightly reduce maximum solar panel efficiency, they will not stop functioning in cold or snowy conditions. Advanced solar modules maintain 95% or more of their rated output, even below freezing.
  • Solar Only Works During the Day
    While the sun is the obvious energy source, grid-tied solar panel systems feed any excess daytime production back to the electric company. Then, at night, homeowners automatically draw from the grid. Net metering tracks your electricity usage versus generation over the entire billing period.
  • Solar Needs Full Sun to be Effective
    Even in partly sunny areas with morning fog or constant cloud cover, solar panels will still work just fine, generating a partial output proportional to available sunlight. No location needs uninterrupted, clear skies to benefit from clean, renewable solar power.

In conclusion, with proper modern solar technology and components, a homeowner can rest assured that their system will reliably produce solar energy regardless of weather conditions like clouds, precipitation, temperature variations, or time of day.

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