Can You Use Solar Power During Night?
Solar panels don’t produce energy during the night. Because photovoltaic cells in solar panels only produce energy when they are exposed to sunlight.
So, if you’re going to run your appliances at night, then your solar panels need a battery backup so that the electricity generated by them during the day is stored in them and can be used later on at night.
Another way of utilizing solar energy at night is the electric grid connection with net metering. Net metering is a common practice in locations where power is generated by solar energy.
In this procedure, you sell excess energy your solar power system produces at times of day to the electricity grid. And grid provides you back the energy to use during the night.
This way the solar energy is still used at night times, and also those who cannot afford a battery backup can enjoy utilizing solar energy for free at night. But there are some disadvantages of using this method to produce solar power during the night as well.
The disadvantage is that your home appliances must be on the electric grid for them to work, and you will not be able to use off-grid electricity storage products such as batteries.
Relying on battery storages
Solar battery storages are very handy in case you have solar panels on your roof and would like to store the produced electricity for using it later at night.
The battery storage is not a cheap alternative if you compare it with having a link to the electric grid so that energy can be drawn from it. But most people will still consider this option as it allows setting up a truly independent system.
The good news is, the solar battery storage will be able to accept both produced electricity and any drawn energy from the grid. What that means is you can use solar panels during the day and pull from the grid at night, or any combination for that matter.
The bad news is, it will be hard to follow up with how much power your storage has at any time. Certain battery storage has LED lights indications, or alarms on them but it doesn’t come up as a standard feature.
In the end, you will have to learn and get used over time, to how much energy is being produced, what is left for storage, and when you need to use the grid or not. This will all be based on your own numbers and estimation trying to keep track of it manually.
Still, if you are fine with guessing the state of charge depending on the last time you used your system and how long ago it was put to charging then you should be fine.
Utilizing Net Metering
Net metering is one way to make solar power more interesting for your home, and reduce your dependency on the grid.
It basically means that you are able to connect a solar panel system to your residence, which feeds off-grid power into the grid when there is excess energy during daytime (when electric rates are high) and uses it when needed from the grid at night or during peak hours (usually in the evening).
The main reason why people want to get away from relying on the electric grid is that they don’t want to pay electricity bills every month. Because having a solar power system and still paying for the electricity may feel like wasting money.
The good part of relying on net metering for nighttime energy needs is that you will not have to pay any energy bill as long as the excess power generated is more than what you use.
You may be able to get a large solar panel system size that will produce large enough energy for your daytime consumption and pays your electricity bill completely.
However, if you are considering installing a large-scale solar power system on your property just so that you can sell back excess electricity to the grid, then this may not work out too well because most electric companies do not allow net metering to be made at commercial or industrial scale.
The bad part of relying on net metering for nighttime usage is that electricity grids don’t buy back electricity in terms of kW energy produced but in terms of monetary value.
What that means is if you have given 10kW of energy to the grid, you will get back less than 10 kW energy when you need it later during the night.
Incorporate battery storage & net metering in tandem
Most solar panel systems now connect to the grid and, where available, incorporate net metering.
In addition, battery storage is becoming more popular in homes. At night, these two systems can work in tandem to maximize your energy security and reduce your electric bills.
Here is how these two systems can work in tandem. You can program your battery to only draw power from the grid when it is completely depleted. This can save you investing in a large battery system that will only rarely see use.
During the day, your solar panels will continue to generate power and store it in your battery system. When you need extra power at night, the battery can work as a primary backup source before drawing energy from the grid.
In essence what you are doing is charging up your battery during the day with energy from the sun, which then provides back-up when solar power isn’t available, and only then request energy from the grid as the last resort if the battery is completely drained.
With proper planning, you can choose a battery with a good size that can minimize costs and maximize reliability while still supporting renewable energy use.
Can Solar Panels Produce Electricity by Moonlight?
Solar panels generate power from raw sunlight, which contains a variety of particles. The ‘photon’ is the most important particle for solar energy.
When photons from the sun strike solar panels, electrons within the panels charge and produce a useable energy current. When the sun goes set, the electrons are no longer exposed to sunlight and so will not charge to produce electricity.
The moon does not produce its own light as the sun does, and the moon lights up as a result of the sun’s light energy reflecting off the moon’s surface area, causing the moon to shine. Because the moon creates no photons and no light of its own, it cannot charge solar panels.