March 15, 2018

Solar Panels in Fog

Panel Effectiveness in Low Light Conditions

Solar panels are becoming commonplace on homes and businesses around the country, but still some questions remain as to their overall effectiveness. This is perhaps the most important consideration for consumers living in dense fog climates. If you live along the central coast or the Bay Area, you most likely wake to fog on a fairly consistent basis. The question is: Will solar panels work for you?

Best Weather for Solar

The best weather for solar panels is obvious: Panels work at the maximum efficiency when tilted toward direct, non-obstructed sunlight. Because panels work best in clear, sunny conditions, states such as Arizona and California tend to lead the county in new and existing installations.

However, solar panels have the ability to function even in harsher conditions. Although they are not effective in total darkness, there is hope for people who live in foggy environments.

Panels in Fog

The good news for people living in these conditions is that solar panels will produce energy. However, they may not work at the same capacity as panels in clear, direct light conditions. For example, a system installed in a home in Phoenix will most likely outperform the same system installed on a home in San Francisco. Fortunately, this does not mean that Bay Area residents must abandon all hope for solar energy.

Solar panels work by harnessing sunlight. Even in low light or foggy conditions, the panels are able to capture the sun’s energy. However, the capacity will be slightly lower. Currently, most solar panels will work at approximately 50% efficiency during foggy conditions. This is vastly superior to solar panels operating in dense cloud cover or during overcast days; in these situations, the panels will be unable to capture much sunlight and generate power.

As the technology and overall abilities of solar panels improve, consumers will see a greater capacity for panels to work in adverse conditions. Additionally, fog typically burns off throughout the morning; although your system will not be working at full capacity in the early morning hours, by mid-afternoon (assuming this is a clear day) the solar panels will be able to fully harness the sun’s rays.

Is Solar Worth It?

Ultimately, this is the question that will determine whether you go solar or continue to primarily use your utility’s power. Given the constraints of solar energy, it may seem as though installing solar panels on your home will be a waste if they cannot work at maximum capacity. However, for a typical family home, even 50% efficiency will result in a decrease in electricity costs. When you consider that the panels will be working at that low level for only part of the day, it becomes evident that solar energy remains a viable option for people living in low light areas.

In fact, this is what researchers are attempting to make evident to consumers in San Francisco, where this question is perhaps most pressing. To encourage more people to consider solar energy on their homes and rental properties, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission developed GoSolarSF, a program that offers incentives to city residents who switch to solar. In addition to offering tax rebates, grants, and financial assistance to help with the installation costs, they also provide a helpful tool for residents to see how much electricity they will be able to produce by installing solar panels on their current residence. The goal is to encourage more people to switch to solar, limiting their reliance on the city’s electrical grid.

With new and ongoing developments in solar panel manufacturing, consumers will find their systems work well even in difficult weather conditions. While there have not been breakthroughs for panels in dense cloud cover, consumers living in foggy conditions can use solar with confidence.


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