How cloudy weather affects a solar energy system

How Cloud Weather affects Solar Energy System

Solar energy is a popular clean energy source. It is environmentally friendly, uses the most renewable source on earth, lowers energy bills and allows complete energy independence if desired.
The biggest concern you, and many people, may have about the advantages of solar energy is what happens during cloudy weather. It is important to know that cloudy periods are expected and taking certain steps will provide extra energy security.

Power through the clouds

The most essential fact to be aware of is that solar energy systems continue to work in cloudy weather. Solar energy systems can use direct or scattered sunlight to create electricity. Sunlight still penetrates the clouds, but at a lower energy because the light is scattered. This means that your solar energy system will still capture that sunlight and produce energy, but in lower amounts. The energy range of these systems are about 10 percent to 25 percent of their normal capacity during cloudy weather, depending on the denseness of the clouds. This will not produce the maximum amount of energy possible, but it will still provide some energy for necessities or supplement grid energy usage.

Electricity grid usage

When solar energy systems are installed, the house is not completely separated from the electricity grid, or city power, unless the customer expressly wishes it. Most solar energy systems are grid-tied. This means that the household energy draws from the solar energy system first, and then it will pull more electricity from the grid if necessary. By installing a grid-tied solar energy system, cloudy days will not require a lower household energy usage. Instead, the house will just pull more energy from the grid. This will result in a slightly higher energy bill, but a few cloudy days will not make a huge difference.
The other benefit of a grid-tied solar energy system is that during sunny days, if your household energy usage is below what the solar system is generating, the excess electricity is sent back to the grid and you will receive the appropriate credits on your energy bill. However, it is also important to know that many utility companies will not allow more credits in a billing period than it takes to zero out the bill. Therfore, it may not be wise to purchase a solar energy system that is significantly larger than necessary just to earn extra bill credits. An installation specialist can help you determine the proper number of solar panels. After doing so, the give and take grid-tied method means that the extra expenses on cloudy days can be canceled out by the extra credits on sunny days. Cloudy days rarely affect expenses enough to negate a home solar energy system’s benefits.

Annual sunlight

In the end, the most important factor in investment calculations isn’t the occasional or even seasonal cloudy days but the average amount of yearly sun in your area. It may comfort you to know that the entire United States receives enough sun in an average year to properly power solar energy systems. Let’s look at a simple example of solar energy output to see how the numbers work.
The continental United States receives an average of six hours of sunlight every day. If that sunlight was directly translated into energy, it would equal 500 kWh of electricity. However, energy is always lost when converting one thing (sunlight) to another (electricity). Most solar panels average 15 percent efficiency. This means that with 100 square yards of solar panel installation, your system would generate about 75 kWh on an average day (500 kWh x 15% x 100 square yards). This is enough energy to completely power a typical household, perhaps with some electricity left over to send back to the power grid for credit.
Of course, all of these numbers are averages. Summer has more sunlight than winter, certain geographic locations get stronger sunlight throughout the year and cloudy weather will cut down on the output. The solar energy output will be significantly lower in winter, meaning those will be the months with the highest energy bills. However, those bills will be so much lower in summer that you will still experience significant savings throughout the year. The key to such a system is appropriate planning — perhaps using your summer savings to prepare for higher bills in the winter. Before solar panel installation, your installation specialist can give you better information about the yearly sunshine and energy output in your specific area. But remember: Even Alaska and cloudy Washington get enough annual solar energy to see a return on investment in their solar energy systems.
Solar energy systems definitely bring both savings and security. They are a one-time investment that keeps paying out year after year. It is also comforting to know that if any hardships should befall you or your community, you will have that power to rely on while leaving a cleaner footprint behind for future generations. Whether the weather is foul or fair, solar energy systems will produce at least some electricity and decrease your utility bills.
To learn how solar energy can work for your home, visit for information and a free quote.

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