Solar panels have revolutionised the way we harness clean and sustainable energy from the sun. While it’s true that these photovoltaic wonders thrive under clear, sunny skies, they don’t fade away when clouds roll in. In fact, solar panels continue to provide substantial benefits even during cloudy weather. In this blog, we’ll explore the science behind solar panels’ performance on cloudy days and why they are a smart investment.
Understanding Solar Panels
Solar panels are composed of numerous photovoltaic cells, each responsible for converting sunlight into electricity. The core technology behind solar panels relies on the interaction between sunlight and semiconductors. When photons from the sun hit the semiconductor material within the solar cells, they knock loose electrons, creating an electric current. This current is then collected and converted into usable electricity. View the infographic below:
Solar Panel Performance on Cloudy Days
Contrary to popular belief, solar panels don’t require direct, unobstructed sunlight to function. Even on cloudy days, they can still generate electricity. Here’s how they manage to do it:
- Diffuse Light: Solar panels can harness diffused sunlight, which scatters in the atmosphere due to cloud cover. While the intensity of this light is lower than direct sunlight, it is still sufficient to generate electricity.
- Ultraviolet and Infrared Light: Solar panels can also capture ultraviolet and infrared light, which are present even when clouds obscure the visible spectrum. This expands their ability to generate power under cloudy conditions.
- Multiple Solar Cells: Solar panels consist of numerous solar cells connected in an array. Even if some cells are shaded by clouds, others can still function optimally, ensuring a steady flow of electricity.
- Energy Storage: To maximise their efficiency during cloudy weather, solar installations often incorporate energy storage solutions like batteries. These systems store excess energy generated during sunny periods and release it when the panels produce less electricity, ensuring a consistent power supply.
- Solar panels can generate anywhere between 10 – 15% of rated capacity during cloudy weather depending on the type of cloud cover and region.
Solar panels are a reliable and sustainable source of energy that continue to shine even when the clouds roll in. Their ability to capture diffused sunlight, ultraviolet and infrared light, combined with advancements in energy storage technology, ensures that solar panels remain an excellent investment especially with South Africa’s unstable electricity supply. By harnessing the power of the sun, even on cloudy days, we can take significant steps towards a greener, more sustainable future. So, whether the sky is clear or overcast, solar panels continue to illuminate our path towards a cleaner and brighter tomorrow.