Can You Get Solar Energy Without Sunlight? Find Out Here

Are you wondering if you can get solar energy without sunlight? Solar energy has a lot of advantages, but it is not always reliable because it depends on the weather, which cannot be controlled.

In general, it is possible to get solar energy without direct sunlight, like in the case of rainy weather, clouds, and shades, but the performance of the solar panels is significantly reduced. 

However, solar panels can still absorb solar energy through photons present in natural daylight.

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Here is all there is to know about getting solar energy without sunlight. 

Can Solar Panels Work Without Direct Sunlight?

A solar panel can only reach maximum efficiency when receiving direct sunlight on a bright and shiny day. It is not true at night. Without sunlight, solar panels can’t absorb energy. 

If you want to use solar power at night, you have to set up a solar battery storage system that can charge during the day and thus provide energy at night. During cloudy days solar panels can still function, but you will notice variations in energy production.

You can expect solar panels to produce a maximum of  60% of the energy they usually create in perfect weather conditions. If it rains, you can also expect a solar panel to work as long as there is some sunlight that the photovoltaic panels can capture. 

Rain can even help the panels to work better because it cleans away the dirt on them, which can act as a block for sunlight and reduce efficiency. 

Do Solar Panels Work In The Shade? 

Sometimes, solar panels do not receive enough sunlight because of a barrier that blocks them and creates shade. Such barriers can come from:

  • Trees
  • Other solar panels
  • Clouds
  • Objects present on the roof

Depending on the sun’s angle, some barriers can create shade on solar panels, and the most classic example is the presence of trees. But even a chimney can partially block sunlight for a while. 

Of course, clouds are the primary source of shade. However, they do not block the sun entirely from coming through, allowing solar panels to produce some energy still. 

Clouds are there when it is raining and snowing. Even in those circumstances, you can expect the solar panel to capture photons still and produce some energy. However, if it snows a lot, its accumulation on solar panels can block sunlight completely. 

Although snow most probably will not manage to accumulate on solar panels because they are usually warm and slippery. 

Solar panel with city night light.

Can I Get Solar Energy At Night? 

Current technology in solar panels cannot produce solar energy at night. Although solar panels can still capture some light from artificial sources, such as street lights, the power generated is very little. Therefore, you cannot rely on solar energy at night and have to have an alternative solution in place. 

There are some alternative solutions to consider. Here are some things you can do:

1. Store Solar Energy

Back-up batteries are one of the primary solutions to take advantage of solar energy at night. During the day, solar panels can charge your battery storage which you can utilize in case of the absence of sunlight or at night. 

This type of solution provides absolute independence from other energy sources. It offers the possibility to utilize sunlight at the maximum because solar panels can produce even more energy during the day than the one used. 

Instead of wasting the excessive energy generated, it is good to store it. Solar panels will generate a surplus of energy most of the time. Although it can be initially more expensive to set up battery storage, you will otherwise typically save double what you’ve spent on a more extended period.

If you do not want to build battery storage in your home, you can always reach the same results with net metering. 

2. Net Metering

If you do not want to invest in solar battery storage, you could take advantage of net metering. Local power companies allow you to use their grid at night if you enable them to use the extra energy created by your solar panels. 

In general, they assign credits for the energy received. When using their power grid, they will not charge you if you are not exceeding the credits accumulated. It is a way to lower energy costs considerably and still be able to use the grid when necessary. 

3. Artificial Lights

It is not convenient nor logical to use artificial lights to power solar panels or cells. It is because artificial lights have to be powered by another energy source in the first place, and it is not as strong as sunlight. But in case of an emergency, if you have a small device powered only by solar energy, you could use artificial light.

In general, it is not a solution for significant energy consumption. Instead, it is better to invest energy and time to increase the efficiency of existing solar panels or batteries to ensure you are getting the maximum out of them. 

Can Solar Panels Work With Artificial Light?

Solar panels can be charged without sunlight but using artificial light. Unfortunately, it is not always convenient to use artificial light on solar panels. Still, technically you can use it to generate energy. 

You can use flashlights, incandescent, fluorescent bulbs, and other artificial lights sources to charge solar panels. Although, like moonlight, you might not get much power from these weak light sources.

It happens because artificial lights can mimic the sun’s spectrum and charge the solar cells of small devices such as calculators and watches. 

However, it is not efficient to convert artificial light into electricity. Solar panels are designed to capture solar light and work best when taking advantage of direct sunlight on a bright and shiny day. 

During the converting procedure that transforms artificial light into electricity, there is always an energy loss. The resulting electricity is less than the initial one. In addition, artificial lights are way less intense than the sun and less effective. 

Do Solar Panels Work With Moonlight?

Current solar panel technology does not work with moonlight. However, the panels can still convert a minimal quantity of moonlight into energy. However, the amount of energy converted is so tiny that it is not typically sufficient to power more than a light bulb. 

If you are using solar panels as a source of energy, you can’t rely on moonlight, but you have to find alternative ways to get power during the night. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Solar Panels Last A Long Time?

Solar panels last for a long time. One can expect them to last between 25 to 30 years. They are built to withstand terrible weather, high temperatures, strong winds, and snow. In addition, solar panels require minimal maintenance. 

What Are The Main Disadvantages Of Solar Energy?

Solar energy has some disadvantages, such as the initial higher costs to get solar panels, when necessary, rechargeable batteries, and the fact that it is dependent on the weather. In addition, using solar energy requires additional space to place solar panels and other parts of the system. 

Do You Need To Clean Solar Panels?

In general, solar panels need to be cleaned once in a while to maintain high efficiency. It is because dust, debris, and other elements can accumulate, preventing them from properly functioning. Rain will help remove dust and dirt, but proper cleaning is necessary for best results.

Sources

  1. https://www.solarimpact.com/blog/what-happens-when-sun-doesnt-shine#:~:text=Solar%20panels%20will%20not%20operate,available%20sunlight%20during%20nighttime%20hours.
  2. https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/energy-production/solar-energy-night.htm
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_metering
  4. https://www.greenmatch.co.uk/blog/2014/08/5-advantages-and-5-disadvantages-of-solar-energy 

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