Do Solar Panels Work in Cloudy Weather?

Solar Energy Systems Northern VA

“Do Solar Panels work in cloudy weather?”  is a question we receive more than there are clouds in the sky before a storm. While at first glance it may seem as though cloudiness and solar energy are incompatible, it often comes as a surprise to people when they learn that solar panels can still produce enough energy to be a viable source of power even on cloudy days.  Obviously, a beautiful sunny sky is ideal for solar production, but that’s not to say sunlight can’t shine through clouds. If you’ve ever walked through a cityscape on an overcast day you probably noticed there were still shadows from the tall buildings.  As long as there’s enough sunlight to produce shadows, there’s enough sunlight to produce electricity.

Sunday May 8th, 2016 was a remarkable day in Germany.  On this day, renewable energy generation facilities reached a new high in terms of production.  This may not come as a huge shock considering that Germany is the world leader in solar energy, but what you may find shocking is that Germany doesn’t receive an enormous amount of sunlight.  According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Germany’s annual solar resources are roughly comparable to that of Alaska.

Yet despite this limitation, solar and wind production combined to supply 45.5 gigawatts of the country’s 45.8 gigawatt demand that day.  Agora Energiewende, a research institute in Berlin, reported that for several periods throughout the day power prices turned negative meaning that consumers were being paid to use electricity.

A map of the relative direct solar-energy availability in the United States, Spain, and Germany. Red = highest, purple = lowest. (NREL). Source: Washington Post, “Germany has five times as much solar power as the U.S. — despite Alaska levels of sun” (Feb. 8, 2013)

Yet despite this limitation, solar and wind production combined to supply 45.5 gigawatts of the country’s 45.8 gigawatt demand that day.  Agora Energiewende, a research institute in Berlin, reported that for several periods throughout the day power prices turned negative meaning that consumers were being paid to use electricity.

Source: Germany had so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity .  Published by QZ.com (May 10, 2016).

Get Your Northern Virginia Solar Energy System

If America has far greater potential to harvest the Sun’s energy compared to Germany, why aren’t we taking advantage of it?  Solar consumption has essentially tripled since 2010, yet it still only accounts for less than 1% of America’s energy consumption.  Critics have argued that solar energy will never truly be a viable source because of the natural fluctuations of direct sunlight because of issues such as cloud shading, however countries like Germany are proving critics wrong all the time.  Every day more and more homeowners across Northern Virginia are investing in solar panel installation.  Making the decision to go solar allows you to diversify your energy sources and protect yourself from rising energy costs while also reducing your home’s monthly expenses.  What’s stopping you from joining the solar movement?