My last post covered the question of do rooftop solar panels work in snow. Now, I wanted to cover whether solar panels work at night. It’s not terribly surprising that questions about whether solar panels work in less-than-ideal conditions are so common.
After all, one of the largest perceived benefits of fossil fuels is that they can produce energy reliably in almost any conditions. Now, I won’t mince words here: solar panels will not work without an energy source. Thus, they won’t produce the energy they would during the day when the sun isn’t shining.
But is it really that simple? This post will also consider other possible energy sources, storage, and more.
Table of Contents
Do Solar Panels Work At Night?
The short answer to this question is no. Your panels won’t work without some sort of energy source. And, of course, the sun is their main source of energy. In most cases, they will produce little to no power at night and may enter a low-power state. Hence, they will produce most of their power during the day.
If your solar panels produce little or no power at night, you will need another energy source. Of course, one common way to power a home when the sun is “sleeping” is to get power from the grid. But you may not want to go this route if your goal is net-zero emissions. Most electrical grids burn fossil fuels for much of their energy mix, especially in the US.
Other Sources of Light
Another way solar panels may work at night somewhat is due to artificial light. They certainly won’t generate as much energy as they would during the day. However, they may be able to produce a small amount of energy without the sun.
Yes, solar panels may be able to generate some power from sources such as the moon and street lights. Solar panels produce energy from light, not heat, so you can still get some power from these sources. But as you can probably imagine, the power output is quite low. The vast majority of your energy production is going to come from the sun.
Of course, artificial light is not going to be able to produce enough energy on its own. The isn’t always shining, either. So, let’s take a look at one way you can get by even without the sun burning brightly.
First, we asked whether solar panels work at night. For the most part, they do not. In most cases, they will produce little to no power when the sun isn’t shining. But that’s not the whole story. What if your system produces more energy than you use during the day? This is feasible if you live in a very sunny area, have a large solar capacity, etc.
And if you do produce more energy than you use during the day, where will that energy go? One potential answer: storage. Indeed, battery storage is seen as a key way to get us to net zero. While some utilities are adding industrial-grade battery backups to their portfolio, most are not there yet. But it’s possible to add a battery backup to your own system, too.
If you’ve ever looked into powering your home at night, you may have heard of the Tesla Powerwall. This battery system has gained a lot of exposure simply due to how popular Tesla is. However, it’s not the only battery system out there.
There are several battery systems to consider, such as:
- LG Chem Battery
- sonnen Battery
- BYD B-Box Battery
As you can probably tell, all of the above are great options for battery storage. Thus, it’s easy to power your home even at night using batteries.
Net metering is a program that allows you to sell any excess power you generate back to the grid. This is another benefit you may be able to gain when you produce excess power. Thus, you can offset your electric bill, helping you pay for the cost of your solar panels. This is a good option if you don’t want to shell out the cash for a battery backup.
Unfortunately, not all states have a program like this, but the majority do. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 38 states and DC currently have net metering rules.
Do Solar Panels Work At Night? The Bottom Line
Solar panels may be able to produce a small amount of energy at night from the moon and from artificial light. However, the energy production from those sources is minimal. If you want to have power overnight, you’ll need to consider other options.
The main options you have for powering your home overnight are:
- Relying on the grid
- Using a battery backup
Of course, everyone’s energy needs are different. Nevertheless, if you have a typical house with appliances such as a refrigerator, you will need to consider one of these solutions to get you through the night. If you want to run the air conditioning or heat overnight, it will be even more challenging.
Indeed, solar panels produce very minimal energy at night, so you should take the appropriate steps to be sure you aren’t left in the dark.