Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

How Do Solar Panels Operate at Night or During Cloudy Days?

Home solar power has become increasingly popular as the cost of installing such units continue to decline and some local and state governments offer tax credits to offset the expense.

However, one question that some home and business owners ask is how does solar power work when the sky is cloudy or at night?

Solar Reviews notes that solar photovoltaic cells, which make up the solar panels that get installed on the roof, converts sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. The DC power is then passed through an inverter that converts it to alternating current (AC) electricity that homes and businesses use to keep the lights and other appliances on.

Solar panels tend to not generate as much electricity during cloudy days as they do when the sky is clear since less light is hitting them. This fact means that homes and businesses with rooftop solar systems tend to work better in parts of the country where it doesn’t rain a lot, say the desert southwest, than in areas that get frequent rain, such as the northwest or the Gulf coast. However, rooftop solar units still create electricity whether or not the skies are clear or cloudy. 

Naturally, solar panels do not work at all when it is night. Home solar systems are designed to turn off when the sun is down. The way that a solar home or business gets power 24/7 is by either employing a storage device such as a battery or by net metering. Usually during the day a rooftop solar system generates more electricity than the home or business needs. The excess electricity has to go somewhere.

In the case of a storage battery the excess electricity is stored during the day and is released during the night or when the weather is inclement. Net metering means that the home or business has an arrangement with the local utility to send the excess electricity back to the grid. At night or when the skies are cloudy, the utility provides the power that is needed from its own electrical generation sources.

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