Most residents of the New England and mid-Atlantic states have surely considered going solar after they’ve seen the way they’re electric bills skyrocket over the last few years. But in many cases, they may have grown hesitant when they realized they aren’t exactly living in a sunny, tropical paradise.
One of the most common questions people have when they’re looking into solar power for the home is how the panels will work on cloudy days, or if they will even work at all.
“Photovoltaic panels are designed to generate electricity with both direct and indirect sunlight.”
Do solar panels still generate electricity without direct sunlight?
The answer is yes, absolutely. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, photovoltaic panels are designed to generate electricity with both direct and indirect sunlight. Obviously, direct sunlight makes the panels more effective, but the system can still draw in light that gets reflected through cloud cover. If you’ve ever gotten a sunburn on a cloudy day, you know exactly how this works.
It’s tough to get a read on exactly how your panels will produce on a cloudy day because there are so many factors that can influence it. Solar Power Rocks wrote that higher quality panels are typically more effective at generating power through clouds and fog than lesser quality panels.
Additionally, the density of the cloud cover can affect the draw greatly – dense clouds that cover the entire sky will block more light than partial or wispy clouds. Some of the leading solar brands, however, have been developed so that they can capture more of the solar spectrum, such as red and blue wavelengths. This can help cancel out the dampening effects of the clouds and keep your system running.
It all comes down to the long view – and a healthy dose of incentives
There’s no denying that solar panels are less efficient when it’s cloudy, but it doesn’t make sense to evaluate them based on occasional weather patterns. As Solar Power Rocks explained, you should consider how much sunshine you’re getting over the course of a year, not just on one or two days. In fact, even through these last few snowstorms, New England has had several clear, sunny days.
“You should consider how much sunshine you’re getting over the course of a year, not just on one or two days.”
Looking at the long view of a solar system’s effectiveness starts by considering your state’s net metering policy. A solar-friendly net metering policy means that you’ll be able to offset any extended cloudy periods with all the extra power your system produces when it’s sunny.
But even then, it’s not all about how much sun a region gets when determining if solar power is a good investment for your home or business. The electricity rates, along with the incentives, rebates and policies are what matters when calculating the ROI on a solar PV system, according to a study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
When a state’s electricity prices are high, like they are in all of New England and most of the mid-Atlantic region, consumer stand to save more by installing a solar PV system on their roofs. And what makes the deal even sweeter is that many of these states, like Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut, have a slew of programs that give convenient financing options, incentives and rebates that allow consumer to go solar for little to no money down.
Cloudy days may get you or your kids down, but you can always rest assured that your solar panels will keep on working for you even when the sun isn’t out.