Will solar panels work when it isn’t sunny?


In recent years, solar power has gained significant popularity as a clean and renewable energy source. As the United Kingdom continues its push towards a sustainable future, solar panels have become a common sight on rooftops across the country. However, a common question arises among potential customers: “Will solar panels work when it isn’t sunny?” Let’s explore the functionality of solar panels during cloudy or overcast days and shed light on how they continue to generate power even in less-than-optimal weather conditions.

The basics of solar panels

Solar panels are comprised of photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. These cells are typically made of silicon, a semiconductor material. When photons from sunlight hit the surface of the PV cells, they excite the electrons within the silicon atoms, creating an electric current. This electricity can then be used to power homes, businesses, or even fed back into the grid.

Power generation on cloudy days

Contrary to popular belief, solar panels are not entirely dependent on direct sunlight to produce electricity. While they perform optimally under direct sunlight, they can still generate power on cloudy or overcast days. Though the intensity of sunlight is reduced during such conditions, solar panels can still harness diffuse sunlight, which refers to the scattered sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface.

The role of diffuse sunlight

Diffuse sunlight is prevalent during cloudy weather, as the clouds scatter the sunlight in multiple directions. Surprisingly, this scattered light still contains a significant amount of energy that can be harvested by solar panels. Although the energy yield may be lower compared to bright, sunny days, the PV cells can still convert diffuse sunlight into usable electricity. Thanks to advancements in solar technology, modern panels are designed to capture a broader spectrum of light, including the shorter wavelengths found in diffuse sunlight.

The importance of panel orientation and tilt

To maximise energy generation during suboptimal weather, the orientation and tilt of solar panels play a crucial role. In the United Kingdom, it is recommended to install solar panels facing south to capture the most sunlight throughout the year. Additionally, tilting the panels at an optimal angle helps enhance energy production, as it allows them to receive sunlight at a more direct angle even during cloudy periods.

Does the temperature matter?

Interestingly, solar panels can actually perform more efficiently in cooler temperatures. While sunlight is necessary for energy generation, excessive heat can have a negative impact on the performance of solar cells. The semiconductors in PV cells work more effectively in cooler temperatures, allowing for better energy conversion. Therefore, the moderate climate of the UK can be beneficial for solar panel efficiency, even during less sunny periods.

The key takeaways

Solar panels continue to provide a viable and sustainable source of energy even when it isn’t sunny outside. While they thrive under direct sunlight, they can still generate electricity during cloudy or overcast days by harnessing diffuse sunlight. With advancements in technology and optimal panel orientation, solar panels in the United Kingdom can be a reliable and efficient means of power generation throughout the year. Embracing solar energy not only helps reduce carbon emissions but also contributes to a greener and more sustainable future for the country. At Coutts Electrical Contractors, we specialise in solar panel installation and are committed to helping you harness the power of the sun. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of solar energy and how it can make a positive impact on your home or business. Together, let’s embrace the power of all-weather energy generation for a brighter tomorrow.