How America’s Cloudiest Cities Are Producing A Ton of Solar Power

 In How it works

Solar energy and cloudiness may seem incompatible, but in reality solar panels can be really valuable even in cloudy climates. A great example of this is Germany, while getting as much sun as Alaska does every year but has become a global leader on solar. In 2015, about 1.5 million solar installations there generated about 7.5% of Germany’s net electricity consumption.

A gorgeous cloudless sky that has beaming sunlight every hour of the day is a dream scenario for solar panels, but is usually unrealistic. Even with a cloudy sky, at least some usable sunlight is still getting through to the panels. Although the most straightforward and powerful fuel for solar panels is direct sunlight, they can also use diffuse sunlight, which is sunlight that has collided with other things in the sky such as clouds, haze, and dust. They can also use reflected sunlight, which is sunlight that has bounced off buildings or the ground before hitting the solar panel. Diffuse and reflected sunlight are less intense than direct sunlight but still get converted to electricity, just less electricity than you would be getting from direct sunlight.

A cloudy month or season doesn’t eliminate the value of solar panels since a solar rooftop’s success is based on the evaluation of how much it reduces your overall use of costly grid electricity on an annual basis. Many cloudy areas in the United States get more than enough sunlight to produce over $1,000 worth of electricity each year, while also helping limit carbon pollution.