When you consider switching to solar power, this may be the first question you think of. How can a solar panel work at night without the most essential element – Sunlight? As we all know that solar panels totally depend on sunlight. So what happens when the sun isn’t shining or there is no sunlight? Let’s start with how solar panels generate electricity?
How Does a Solar Power Panel Work?
Solar panels use the photovoltaic effect to convert the solar energy captured from the sunlight into electrical energy. The photovoltaic effect relates to the generation of the electric field in two opposite charged semiconductors combined together at a junction.
The photons in the incident sunlight dislodge the electrons in the atoms, allowing them to move freely. The subsequent flow of electrons establishes an electric current. The electric current produced in specific photovoltaic cells and solar panels is carried together with appropriate wiring. The power produced by PV cells is direct current (DC).
Since direct current (DC) is not compatible with most electrical appliances and devices, it needs to be converted into alternating current (AC). The inverter connected to the solar system does this work. The alternating current (AC) is then served into the main switchboard to help it reach all electrical appliances and devices. Many solar system companies and solar panel manufacturers in India are utilizing this technology to harness the sun’s energy and power homes and businesses.
Do Solar Panels Work At Night?
The answer is no, Solar panels do not work at night. As mentioned earlier, they need sunlight to generate power. Since there will be no sunlight at night, solar panels won’t be able to generate current. Often, we notice the night is well-lit by moonlight. This leads us to the question – Do solar panels operate with Moonlight?
Again, the answer is no. The moon doesn’t emit light as the sun does. Moonlight is just the reflection of sunlight falling on it. Moonlight doesn’t contain photons that can initiate the photovoltaic effect in solar power panels. Therefore, the production of solar energy is not possible with moonlight even though it is bright.
So what is the operating time of the solar module? Anytime when sunlight touches the surface of solar power panels, it will generate electrical energy. So, solar energy is viable only during daylight. Then the question comes into our mind – what about the electricity requirements at night?
How To Manage Your Energy Requirements At Night With Solar Panels?
At night, when solar panels cannot produce energy, there are two ways to choose for meeting the energy requirements i.e. net metering and energy storage using a solar battery.
In the net metering arrangement, you are connected to the power grid using a bi-directional meter. It keeps tabs on the inflow and outflow of electricity. During the daytime, when your solar power system produces more energy than your usage, the additional energy is served into the grid. The utility pays off for the transferred energy with credits or payments that will be adjusted in the electricity bill.
At night or when the solar power system is not producing electrical energy or if there is a shortage in power generation, you may obtain energy from the grid to power your home appliances. The electrical energy drawn from the grid will be adjusted against the credits or electricity bill.
The net metering arrangement permits a continuous power supply when connected to a home solar system. It acts as a communal storage solution for the energy produced by solar power systems. If there is abundant sunlight during the day, it is possible to keep the electricity bills zero with the help of a net-metering arrangement.
Solar Battery Storage
The theory behind solar energy storage is quite simple. Most solar systems are carefully designed to produce more energy than you need during the day. The extra energy generated during the day is stored in solar panels.
At night, when your solar panels are in sleep mode, they utilize the energy stored in the solar battery to power your home. With his arrangement, some houses or buildings are even able to operate off-grid, i.e. totally independent of the utility.
Anti Solar Cells
Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis accompanied by graduate student Tristan Deppe has come up with an advanced and innovative idea of solar cells that work at night – the anti-solar cell which is a Thermo-radiative cell that generates electricity by radiating infrared light into the cold depths of space.
This is an inverse of the procedure happening in conventional PV cells. Rather than absorbing energy from the sun, it emits energy into space. These night solar cells will operate as normal solar cells but in the opposite way. A specifically designed solar cell is capable of producing up to 50 watts of power per square meter at night i.e. approximately 25% of power generation compared to the daytime i.e. 50 Watt per sq. meter.
Solar power panels have taken the world by storm over the last decade, and their popularity doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The performance of solar panels in different weather conditions depends on the company or brand of your solar system. So make sure to choose the Solar PV suppliers such as Insolation Energy, one of the top 10 solar manufactures of India, that provide the best solar panels in India and are well-informed about the latest technological developments.