Best Solar Panels for Cloudy Conditions

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In the past three years The Eco Experts have been a part of over a quarter of the domestic solar installation in the UK.

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Can solar panels work in cloudy weather?

Solar modules/panels have been designed to generate energy in just about all weather conditions; they have technology which does not just depend on the absorption of visible spectrums of light, but can utilise the energy wavelengths which pass through clouds on overcast days.

The effects of the process can be seen when people suffer from sunburn, on days when there is diffused light as opposed to strong, direct sunshine. Obviously, generation levels will be lower on cloudy days; light cloud cover can reduce the output by as much a half, and on a very overcast day this will drop to as little as 5-10%. However, this level of energy generation will still be enough to meet the majority of the consumer's requirements.

Photovoltaic solar panels

The reasons for using Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels can best be summed up in the quote made by a leading expert in renewable energy; photovoltaic devices are indifferent to the direct or diffuseness of light of a given intensity'. In other words, the technology has developed an energy-generation tool which is capable of producing electricity in all extremes of climatic conditions, in any location.

The PV cells are constructed using layers of a semi-conducting material, generally silicon, which, when light hits the surface, will generate an electricity field across the layers. The captured power is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp), defined as the rate at which the energy is generated when the system is in optimal generation; during the summer months, in full sunlight.

Future developments

The level of sunshine, either direct or from diffused light, can be calculated, or predicted over the course of a year, this process is described as insolation. The scientific definition being, the amount of radiation falling on 1 square metre of area under direct sunlight.

The European Commission Joint Research Centre has calculated these levels for the different regions of the UK; the north and Scotland will receive 1000-1100 kWh of irradiation annually, the south of England 1100-1200 and Devon and Cornwall, in the far south-west, 1200-1300 kWh per year. This demonstrates that, even in areas not known for continuous bright sunshine, more than adequate levels of solar generation can be enjoyed, making cloudy or overcast conditions no barrier to renewable energy production.

Advances in PV solar technology are being made all the time, and the potential to manufacture a PV cell which can deliver the highest levels of output, in all adverse climatic conditions, is being exploited to the full by the leading experts in solar generation.

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