How Solar Panels Continue Working on Cloudy Days

There are a number of unfortunate myths out there surrounding solar panels and their modern uses, and one of the most common is that solar panels don't work when it's cloudy. This simply isn't true -- not only do solar panels continue to work even when there are significant clouds in the sky, there are even some rare situations where clouds actually increase the performance levels of solar panels rather than decreasing them.

At Intermountain Wind & Solar, we're here to provide a wide range of residential and commercial solar panel installation services, plus expertise on how to utilize your system and its battery backup. We're regularly asked how our panels and systems perform on cloudy days, and we're happy to inform clients exactly how solar panels work in these settings -- and their quality levels even despite significant cloud cover might surprise you in a positive way. Here's everything you need to know.

Clouds Are Only a Minor Obstacle

First and foremost, we should get the most important fact out of the way: There are certain cloudy days that will indeed diminish the total power generated by your solar panels. The confusion here, however, comes when discussing how large this effect will be.

Even on the days featuring the heaviest clouds, you see, the drop in solar power production isn't that high. It's usually lower than 10% of your system's expected total, though it may reach as high as 25% on the worst possible days. This is for several reasons, including modern increases in solar technology that allow it to capture a wide range of sun rays -- even those that easily make it through typical cloud cover (clouds do not completely block UV rays, and some barely block them at all).

And when you factor in how infrequently there's major cloud cover in places like Utah and Idaho, 95% of the time you'll still be getting just as much power from your solar panels regardless of the surrounding cloud cover. You can easily readjust expectations on a day like this and prepare for less power, but you shouldn't be cutting back significantly for this sort of thing in most cases.

Situations Where Clouds Help

This may sound counterintuitive, but stick with us for just a moment: There are actually situations where limited cloud cover will actually enhance the performance of solar panels.

This happens when the clouds in question are reflective in nature, which is relatively common. In these situations, much like sunlight reflecting off a body of water, sun will bounce off the clouds and will actually return back to your solar panels for a second time, offering them the chance to intake even more power.

Solar Panel Use in Cloudy Regions

Want some real-life proof of what we're talking about here? You can find it by looking no further than many other areas of the United States, all of which utilize solar power regularly -- even in areas where cloud cover and rainstorms are especially common.

Consider a place like Seattle, for instance, which is known for its high levels of rain and constant cloud cover. Despite this, solar panel installation and solar power usage is skyrocketing over recent years, and one of the main reasons for it is thanks to just how efficient solar panels are in these conditions.

Heck, you don't even need to restrict your scope here to just the United States. Consider countries like Germany, for instance, or South Korea -- both these areas go through prolonged winters and receive more than their fair share of inclement weather throughout the year, but they're two of the world's largest adopters of solar power overall.

Impact of Solar Power on Local Economies

And when it really comes down to it, the economic factors involved with solar power are a big part of why they're so popular, even in places where cloud cover is frequent. Solar power is simply far cheaper than electricity, and when a given city or region significantly increases its reliance on solar power rather than the electrical grid, it's saving money significantly.

If a city doesn't have to spend five cents to produce each kilowatt of power, for example, that's five cents more it has to spend on local economic development rather than other utilities. It isn't hard to see why cities and local economies are so interested in solar power when you look at the cost-effective nature of it from an economic standpoint, especially when you factor in the added benefit of taxes and other fees that are often waived for those who use solar power.

Ideal in Sunny Situations, Too

And of course, nothing we've gone over to this point changes the simple efficiency benefits you get from using a solar panel system in its more common state: During a sunny day. Not only will your system generate large amounts of power on these days, its battery backup system will store excess power and ensure you have it available in case of any kind of outage -- or in those extremely rare cases where it's so cloudy on a given day that your panels' performance has dropped by closer to 25%. In these situations, you can rest easy knowing that even if your panels are coming up a bit short on their daily production, you have plenty of extra power still available.

For more on how solar panels operate on cloudy days, or to learn about any of our solar panel installation or related services, speak to the staff at Intermountain Wind & Solar today.

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