Do solar panels generate much power on a cloudy day?

Do solar panels generate much power on a cloudy day?

Solar panel systems can produce less power on cloudy days – as you might expect – and yet photovoltaic (PV) solar energy use is extremely popular and an effective source of power in cities that get lots of inclement weather like cold and wet cities.

Why?

Part of the answer is that clouds are not the obstacle they appear to be. Many people think solar panels work best in sun-blasted regions with few or no clouds, however that’s not quite true. Solar panels produce energy by converting sunlight to direct current (DC) and then an inverter turns that into alternating current (AC), which is the type of power most houses run on. Cloudy days create an estimated power drop-off of about 10 to 25 percent from what you see on a sunny day. But the weather is fickle. Sometimes clouds can enhance the performance of solar panels at times by reflecting or magnifying sunlight.

Economic factors – not just weather patterns – may help explain why people in cloudy regions love solar power. The biggest driver of solar power’s popularity in any region is the cost of electricity, not the amount of sunlight that area sees. That’s why there are still many solar panel homeowners in often cloudy areas, including countries like Germany and South Korea, two of the biggest adopters of solar technologies.

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