Solar panels generate electricity using energy from the sun. The sun’s energy is clean, renewable, and free to use, making solar one of the most affordable and environmentally friendly ways to power your home. But their reliance on the sun does lead to one major drawback—solar panels don’t work at night.
So what happens to solar panels and solar energy at night? Keep reading to learn more!
What Happens at Night with Solar Panels?
Because solar panels don’t work without the sun, you won’t be able to use them for power once the sun goes down. But this doesn’t mean you’ll lose power at night with solar panels.
Most rooftop solar panel systems are connected to the electric grid. Thanks to this interconnection, grid-tied solar panels can draw power from the grid and feed power into it. At night, when your solar panels are not producing electricity, the power you use will come from the grid instead of your PV system. Your electric meter will keep track of the power you use and you’ll be charged for it on your monthly statement. (You can learn more about what your electric bill will look like with solar panels here). So, even though solar panels turn off at night, you don’t have to worry about being without power when the sun goes down.
Net Metering Can Offset Nighttime Energy Costs
Net metering is a solar incentive system that’s currently available in California. It allows rooftop solar customers to trade power with the electric grid. During the day, when there is plenty of sunlight available, your solar panels will likely generate more power than you can use at any given time. As a net metering participant, you can send your extra power to the grid, which will then distribute it to other homes and buildings. You’ll earn credit with your utility for the solar power you send them. When you need to buy power from the grid, you’ll be able to use your credit to offset the cost.
Changes are coming to Net Energy Metering in California (NEM), but the incentive is not going away. Under the new NEM system, solar customers will be paid less for the electricity they send to the grid, but they will still be able to earn credit.
Solar Batteries Let You Use Solar Energy at Night
Solar panels don’t work at night, with or without solar battery storage. But, if you have a solar battery, you can store the excess energy your solar panels generate during the day and draw power from your batteries at night. To power your whole home with stored solar energy, you will need a large battery bank. One or two batteries won’t be able to power your entire home through the night, but they will help supplement your nighttime electricity needs.
If you want to go off the grid with solar—meaning you cut your ties to the electric grid entirely—you will need a large solar battery bank. Without a grid connection, you won’t have the electric grid to fall back on when you don’t have enough power stored to run your home, so it’s essential to install ample storage for an off-grid solar system.
There are many additional benefits of solar batteries, too, including that they allow you to use your solar panels during a power outage.