How Do Clouds Affect Solar Panels?

Posted 10 months ago by Manual Thomas

Clouds can either be your friend or your enemy.

The good thing about clouds is that they shade and cool the earth and help regulate our climate.

However, there are some downsides to having too many clouds – like blocking sunlight from hitting solar panels!

In this article, we will provide you with detailed information about clouds as well as answer the frequently asked question, “How do clouds affect solar panels?”

So without further ado let’s get into details.

What Is A Cloud?

A cloud is a type of airborne particle that reflects light rather than absorbs it, unlike the particles in solar panels.

Clouds are made up primarily of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.

As a cloud passes overhead, it blocks some of the sun’s rays from your solar panels.

If you have a direct view of the sky from your panel location, a high cloud may completely block all light for several minutes or more during peak sunlight hours.

During winter months, when there is less sunlight in the sky, this effect may last only a few minutes each day

Related Article: 7 Ways to Protect Solar Panels from Hail

How Clouds Affect Solar Panel Energy Production

To fully understand how clouds affect solar panel energy production, it helps to understand how solar panels turn sunlight into electricity.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels absorb sunlight, which excites electrons to a higher energy level in the cells.

The excited electrons are captured by semiconducting material in the panel and pass through an electrical circuit, where they power appliances or are sold to utility companies.

Any time your solar panels are exposed to sunlight, they are producing maximum power.

The amount of power they produce is determined by the intensity of sunlight, which varies depending on the time of day, season, and cloud cover.

Moreover, A dark cloud passing overhead may only reduce solar panel output by 10% or less when compared to a sunny day, but during periods of extended rainfall, your panels might not provide any electricity at all.

It is difficult to predict or calculate how much power will be generated on partially cloudy days.

The only way to know how much energy your solar panels are producing at any given time is by checking them with a monitoring system like the Enphase Enlighten, which shows you how much electricity your system is generating in real-time.

Related Article: What Affects The Output Of A Solar Panel?

What Else Do I Need To Know About Cloudy Weather And Solar Panels?

If you have a photovoltaic system, it is important to remember that different types of cloudy days affect solar panel output differently.

In general, overcast skies reduce power production, while periods of rain or snow may increase output.

Clouds that move at high speeds seem to have the least effect on solar panel performance, but this might not always be true if they are composed of ice crystals rather than water droplets.

If you cannot see individual clouds or cloud movement, it is best to assume that they are affecting your system.

Related Article: How Solar Panels Work In The Rainy Seasons?

How Many Clouds Affect Solar Panel Output?

The amount of shade caused by one passing cloud will depend on its size and thickness.

Since there is often more than one cloud in the sky at any given time, and since other types of obstructions like tree branches or chimneys can also cast shadows, accurate prediction of cloud effects on solar panel output is difficult.

Related Article: Can the Moon Charge a Solar Panel?

How long do clouds last?

Clouds take different forms and occur under a range of conditions.

Some are wispy and transparent, while others are thick and dark.

Some clouds last for a few minutes or hours, while others may last for days.

Since it is rare to have one continuous cloud cover, any extended period of cloudy weather should be taken into account during the planning stages of solar panel installation, so that your system can be adjusted accordingly.

Solar Panels Efficiency In Cloudy Days

A single cloud passing directly overhead might reduce solar panel output by 10% to 15%.

Depending on the number of hours that sunlight is obscured, you could lose up to 25% or more of your power production.

On an overcast day, you can expect to lose between 30% and 50% of your power production.

Even on a bright and sunny day, with clear skies overhead, the sun’s light is often obscured by high thin clouds (cumulus) that reflect light into space.

These clouds are like huge mirrors that bounce sunlight away from Earth before it has a chance to reach the ground where solar panels might intercept it.

Related Article: Does A Solar Panel Have To Be In Direct Sunlight?

How Do You Calculate How Much Energy Clouds Block From Solar Panels?

This calculation is best done by a professional.

When determining the loss of electricity due to cloud cover, be sure to collect as much data as possible about past performance and present weather conditions.

This will help account for any unusual circumstances that may arise in the future and will help to accurately calculate the exact loss of power due to cloud cover.

Related Article: How Much Voltage Can A Solar Panel Produce?

How Can I Keep The Power From Fading?

The amount of power lost due to cloud cover is reduced by the installation of a micro-inverter on each solar panel, which allows power production to continue even when some cells are in the shade.

However, whatever loss occurs while a single cell or group of cells is shaded will be experienced throughout that whole panel until the direct path to the sun is unobstructed again.

Therefore, it is best to have an automated monitoring system that can shut down individual panels in direct sunlight when other cells are shaded by clouds passing overhead.

This will prevent power loss while still allowing your solar panels to run at maximum efficiency whenever they are in the clear.

Cloud cover affects all photovoltaic systems, but the effects are not uniform across all installation sites or panel types.

The actual loss of power due to cloud cover will depend on various factors including your geographic location, the number of panels involved, and the overall design of your system.

Solar panels should be positioned so that they do not have any trees or structures above them that might cast a shadow.

For optimal power output, the sun’s rays should be unobstructed and direct, and there should be no shading of cells or reflection from shaded areas.

If you cannot achieve this level of performance on your own, it is best to consult with a professional solar installer to help enhance your system.

Last Words

So, if you want to hook up with solar energy, then you have to know that on cloudy days (or even sunny days) your panels will not produce the same amount of power.

We hope you enjoyed our article as much as we did.

Do you have any questions?

If so, please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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Manual Thomas