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Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

Expert Solar Panel Installers in Worthing- William Dexter-Managing Director

Written by

William Dexter

Updated on

April 30, 2024

Worthing Solar Panel Installation - Energize Solar

Table of Contents

References

Heatable (n.d.) Most Efficient Solar Panels. Available at: https://heatable.co.uk/solar/advice/most-efficient-solar-panels

UK Met Office (n.d.) Global Map Data Layers: Total Cloud Cover. Available at: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/guides/global-map-data-layers#total-cloud 

MCS Certified (2023) ‘2023: A Record-Breaking Year for MCS and Small-Scale Renewables’. Available at: https://mcscertified.com/2023-a-record-breaking-year-for-mcs-and-small-scale-reneables/

Introduction 

In the United Kingdom, where cloudy days are a common occurrence, the effectiveness of solar panels is often questioned. Many wonder: Do solar panels work on cloudy days? Others wonder, if the UK is so cloudy, should we even invest in solar panels?

Let’s explore the intricacies of solar panel performance in the UK’s climate and dispel any myths surrounding their functionality under cloudy skies.

Understanding Solar Panels

Solar panels in the UK function similarly to those elsewhere, utilising photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. However, their performance is inevitably influenced by the weather conditions unique to the UK, including frequent cloud cover and variable sunlight.

The Impact of Cloud Cover

Cloud cover in the UK does affect solar panel efficiency, as it reduces the amount of direct sunlight reaching the panels. Nevertheless, even on cloudy days, sunlight still penetrates through the clouds, albeit at a diminished intensity. As a result, solar panels continue to produce electricity, albeit at a lower rate compared to sunny conditions.

Below is a representation of the average cloud cover in the UK over decade

Year

Heavy Cloud Cover (%)

Light Cloud Cover (%)

2010

40

25

2011

35

25

2012

45

23

2013

38

24

2014

42

22

2015

37

30

2016

41

22

2017

34

25

2018

39

27

2019

36

25

2020

47

22

Drawing a conclusion on whether cloud cover negatively affects solar panel energy production requires considering various factors. While it’s evident that cloud cover reduces the amount of sunlight reaching solar panels, decreasing their efficiency, the extent of this impact can vary based on several factors:

Intensity of Cloud Cover: Heavy cloud cover, characterised by thick and opaque clouds, can significantly reduce solar panel output by blocking a substantial amount of sunlight. On the other hand, light cloud cover may still allow a considerable portion of sunlight to penetrate through, albeit with some attenuation.

Duration and Frequency: The duration and frequency of cloudy days in a specific region also play a crucial role. Areas with prolonged periods of overcast weather may experience more pronounced reductions in solar panel efficiency compared to regions with sporadic cloud cover.

Seasonal Variations: Solar panel performance can vary seasonally due to changes in cloud cover patterns, solar elevation angle, and daylight hours. For example, winter months in some regions may experience more cloud cover, leading to decreased solar energy production compared to sunnier seasons.

Technology and Design: Advances in solar panel technology, such as improved efficiency in low-light conditions, can mitigate the negative effects of cloud cover to some extent. Additionally, optimising panel orientation and tilt angles can enhance energy generation efficiency under diffuse light conditions.

With a reputable and MCS accredited installer, these are all considerations taken into account prior to the installation of solar panels.

Considering these factors, it’s reasonable to conclude that while cloud cover does have a negative impact on solar panel energy production, it does not completely negate its viability as a renewable energy source.

With careful planning, technological innovations, and a comprehensive understanding of local climate patterns, solar energy systems can still provide significant contributions to the overall energy mix, even in regions prone to cloud cover. Moreover, when coupled with other renewable energy sources and energy storage solutions, solar power can play a crucial role in building resilient and sustainable energy systems that still operate effectively and produce the end result of saving up to 70% on monthly energy bills.

Let’s calculate your potential savings

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The Edge of Cloud Effect

One phenomenon that boosts solar panel performance on cloudy days is the “edge of cloud effect.”

As sunlight passes through the edges of clouds, it can be refracted and scattered, resulting in increased diffuse radiation. Solar panels can harness this diffuse sunlight, albeit less efficiently than direct sunlight.

Consequently, even during overcast conditions, solar panels can benefit from this effect, contributing to electricity generation.

Solar Panel Innovations To Combat the Clouds

In response to the unique challenges posed by the UK’s climate, there have been innovations in solar panel technology aimed at enhancing performance under cloudy skies.

Some panels now incorporate advanced materials and designs to capture diffuse sunlight more effectively, ensuring consistent energy generation even in less-than-ideal weather conditions.

Year

Average Solar Panel Efficiency (%)

2010

12

2015

13.5

2020

14

2022

17

2023

21

2024

23

As such technology of solar panels is only improving as the years pass. This is a crucial development in technology to make solar panels a more viable renewable energy product for the masses.

With over 220,000 installations in 2023, the financial benefits for thousands in the UK is clear with the impact of clouds being of small impact.

Our Top Performing Solar Panel In Clouds

Jinko – Tiger Neo N-type

jinko solar - energize solar - worthing

Features of the Jinko Tiger Neo N-Type

SMBB Technology: Better light trapping and current collection to improve module power output and reliability.

Efficiency In Light Clouds: between 18-22% efficiency even when cloudy

Power Warranty: 30 year Power Warranty

Product Warranty: 12 year product Warranty

Strength: Come wind, snow or shine, the Jinko panel can withstand large loads and is as robust and versatile as solar panels come.

https://www.jinkosolar.com/

Conclusion:

While it’s true that solar panels operate most efficiently in direct sunlight, they can still generate electricity on cloudy days in the UK. By understanding the factors influencing their performance, including the edge of cloud effect, and embracing technological advancements tailored to the UK’s climate, solar energy remains a reliable and sustainable solution for reducing carbon emissions and securing energy independence.

So, the next time clouds blanket the sky, remember that your solar panels will still be hard at work, grabbing rays from the sun to fuel a cleaner, cheaper and greener future for you and your home.

Let’s calculate your potential savings

This will only take a couple of minutes!

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