Do You Need to Install Solar Panels in Direct Sunlight?

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels are widely regarded as an ideal method of generating electricity. The materials in the panels, usually silicon, create an electric current when met with natural daylight and this current is then used as standard electricity within properties. The energy is renewable, therefore, considered green. However, many question how effective solar panels are in cloudy climates and wonder whether direct sunlight is, indeed, needed to get the full benefits of the panels.

Daylight not Sunlight

Solar panels use the energy from daylight, as opposed to sunlight, to produce electricity so panels do not need direct sunlight to work. It is photons in natural daylight which is converted by solar panels cells to produce electricity. Heat has no effect on the production of electricity.

This being said it is true that direct sunlight does provide the best conditions for the panels. However, even in overcast conditions light will diffuse through the clouds and reach the solar panels. Modern solar panels include concentrators which use a system of lenses and mirrors to maximise any light that does reach the cells. As a result it is estimated that solar panels will be 40% as effective in heavy cloudy as they would in direct sunlight. The clearer the skies are the more electricity will be produced.

What about the UK?

Clearly, the United Kingdom is not the sunniest climate in the world, however, there is sufficient daylight to ensure that solar panels will work effectively. It is worth noting that current solar panel systems cannot store up electricity (it is returned to the national grid) so having a long period of sunny weather will not create electricity which can be used later on. 

Solar panels will, therefore, not work at night and the property will still be dependent on electricity from the national grid. Solar panels will work in winter, even in the UK, but of course less electricity will be created as the hours of daylight are considerably shorter than they are in the summer months.

Despite common beliefs, solar panels do not need direct sunlight to work and the weather conditions in the UK should not put off potential solar panel buyers. It is energy from daylight, as opposed to sunlight, which powers the panels which means even on dull days electricity will be generated. There are many questions potential solar panels owners should concern themselves with but the question of the panels needing sustained sunlight to work can be dismissed.

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