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Do clouds affect solar panels?

Cloudy weather. Harsh winters. Rain. If this sounds like an area you live in and want to install solar panels, you might be wondering, “should I bother?” The general perception is that the weather has a direct correlation with the output of your system. Or in other words, cities like Columbus, Pittsburgh or New York will not benefit from solar energy like Miami, Las Vegas or Los Angeles. The general perception is wrong.

There are many advances in solar technology and other factors that allow solar power to work just as well in areas that have bad weather as it does in areas that bask in the sun. Let us explain some of those facts to you.

Cloudy areas are a good match for solar energy

The world’s solar superpower, Germany, is one of the cloudiest countries in Europe. Last May it covered more than 95% of its energy needs through solar energy. It is interesting to note that Germany only receives as much sunlight as the state of Alaska, but still manages to produce around 25 Gigawatts of energy through solar energy. Incredible true? That’s because cloudy days don’t matter as much as the total amount of sunlight you get per year. Cities like Cleveland, Portland, and Boston have cloudy weather, but they are great combinations for solar power!

Winter and the performance of your solar panels

It is important to remember that solar energy depends on light, not heat. No matter how cold the weather is, as long as you get sunlight, your solar panels will be in good shape and working. The key is to make sure your panels get as much sunlight as possible and limit / eliminate shadows.

Effect on energy production

How much energy will your solar panels produce during cloudy weather? Your solar panels will provide only 25% to 45% of the energy they produce on a sunny day. However, solar panel producers such as SunPower and LG produce panels that maintain efficiency and high output even in low light conditions.

So what is the final verdict? Does solar power work in cloudy weather? Yes, it does, even in cities like Ohio (a small 4kW solar power system can cover most electric bills). Clouds and inclement weather are no reason not to use solar energy. But, it is important to note that your roof is solar ready and receives no shade.

Visit NREL’s online PVWatts calculator to see how much solar energy your roof can produce, despite the cloudy skies ahead.

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