We often hear the same question from solar power skeptics or those who are considering solar but have some reservations: what will happen to my panel system on cloudy or rainy days where the sun doesn’t shine as bright? Does that mean your lights won’t turn on and you’ll be left in the dark? Contrary to what a lot of skeptics say, this isn’t the case and we’ll explain a little more about what happens to your panels when conditions aren’t great for generating power on this blog.
Will I Have Power on Rainy Days?
The concept of solar power is simple: the sun floods the earth with energy, which your panels collect and convert to electricity that you can safely utilize in your home. However, on days when much of the sun’s energy is reflected away by heavy cloud cover, your panels can’t use it to generate power. Will that mean your lights won’t turn on?
The short answer: most likely not. If a lack of sunlight killed your home’s power source, your lights would shut off every single night when the sun set, and that really wouldn’t be all that convenient, would it? The overwhelming majority of solar power installations don’t actually remove your home’s connection to the public electrical grid, just reduce your dependence on it. That way your home is still powered when your panels no longer produce electricity, but you simply don’t draw power from your public utility grid when the sun is shining bright and your panels are producing power.
That means your panels will produce a tremendous amount of energy for the majority of the year when the weather here in New Jersey features bright sunshine. However, you won’t be without power on those days where it isn’t because you’ll still maintain your connection to the public grid.
Does that mean you’ll still receive an electric bill at the end of the month? Yes, it does. However, thanks to New Jersey’s extremely friendly net-metering policies, any power your system generates can be sent back to the public grid in exchange for a credit on your utility bills. If your credits exceed the total cost of your energy used for the month, you’ll carry the credit through to the next month. If you still have a credit on your energy account at the end of the year, your public utility will mail you a check for the difference!
Going “Off the Grid”
Now, some people want to sever their connection to the public utility grid entirely, getting rid of their electric bill forever and becoming completely self-sustainable. This is an admirable quest, but it does come with some added risk, notably from the fact that you won’t have the safety net of public electricity in the event of a cloudy or rainy day. In these situations, yes, your lights could shut off, and that means you’ll need to have a backup plan for what to do in these situations.
The most popular option is to also install a home battery backup system. These large power reserves come in a wide variety of capacities, form factors, and available features, meaning odds are you can find one that’s right for your home. These units take the unused power that your solar panel system generates, store it for a later time (even as soon as that night when the sun goes down and you have to turn on the lights), and then send it back to your home when it’s needed. This way your panels don’t waste any of the energy they produce and instead you can hold on to it for when you need it.
If you want to go “off the grid” you’ll need a substantial one of these backup power systems, and you’ll likely also want to keep a backup generators system on standby just in case your backup battery system is depleted. At that point, your lights would shut off and important appliances such as your refrigerator would go without power.
However, you also don’t need to disconnect from your public electrical grid to make use of a battery backup system as well. Your solar panel system can charge up a battery backup system during the day and keep it charged so when a power outage strikes in the middle of the night, your lights, appliances, data centers, and climate control systems can stay on, keeping you comfortable and functioning when your neighbors around you are struggling in the dark.
For more information about installing a solar panel system or a battery backup for your home, contact Sunpower® by Sea Bright Solar today at (732) 253-4052!