Do Solar Panels Work on a Cloudy Day?

Here in Western New York, we get our share of cloudy days. Sometimes it’s “mostly cloudy,” sometimes it’s “partly cloudy,” but overall, our cloud-to-sun ratio is fairly high. So does it make sense to install solar panels in a region that’s not known for endless days of brilliant sunshine?

The answer is yes, solar panels do work on cloudy days. They’re not quite as efficient, but they still produce up to 25% of their normal output. Cloudy cities do earn points in another area, though. Although they work better on sunny versus cloudy days, solar panels lose effectiveness when the temperature goes above 77℉. A city like Buffalo (or Portland or Pittsburgh) benefits from long summer days with mild temperatures; this helps to balance out lower production on cloudy or shorter winter days.

There are two ways to store solar energy and redistribute it from sunny days to cloudy days. 

The first is by using a solar battery. A solar battery simply stores excess energy produced on sunny days for later use in your home. This stored energy can be used at night when there’s no sunlight, or on an extremely overcast day.

The second, and more common way, to redistribute solar energy is by net metering. With net metering, you don’t have physical energy storage at your home. Instead, excess electricity is fed into your electric utility’s grid when your system is producing more than you need.You receive credits for this power, which accumulate in your account. When your system isn’t producing enough electricity, you can draw it from your utility just as you did before you went solar. 

The goal of net metering is for the “give-and-take” between your system and the grid to ensure that your excess production covers the times when you don’t produce enough. By your net metering anniversary date, you will be energy neutral, producing the same amount of energy as you are consuming on an annual basis. 

Even if you live in a cloudy city, you can still benefit from installing solar panels. By storing the excess energy you produce in a solar battery, or by taking advantage of net metering, you can take advantage of the energy your solar panels produce on long, sunny days during the cloudy shorter ones. 

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