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Do Solar Panels Work With Moonlight? [Or They Need Direct Sunlight?]

Tim Carter
Written by Tim Carter Last Updated: June 12, 2022

Can we convert moonlight into usable energy using solar panels? Sunlight reaches the earth throughout the year, but its strength varies depending on the position of the earth and the weather. This impacts the amount of electricity solar panels produce. And we know that we need direct sunlight to charge solar panels. But can they work with moonlight?

Solar panels can convert moonlight into electricity. However, moonlight cannot power PV cells enough to generate sufficient electricity to power your appliances. A solar panel that normally produces 3450 W at midday produces only 10 W during the full moon.

New solar panels work at night, the same way a regular solar cell does but in reverse.

In theory, any light source will make a solar panel generate electricity. Yet, practically, for now, the amount of energy you can get from moonlight is so small that it’s practically useless, barely enough to just light a led garden light.

Table of Contents

What Is Solar Power?

Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity through the use of solar panels.

Solar panels, which are frequently made of silicon, absorb light and turn it into electricity. This energy may be used to power homes and enterprises.

Solar energy is a clean and long-term energy source that may assist us to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Renewable energy sources are environmentally beneficial since they emit no contaminants such as carbon dioxide or sulfur dioxide.

Solar power has several advantages over other energy technologies.

It is a green energy source that produces no pollutants and may be used to generate electricity even in areas with no access to the electricity grid.

Solar power is also adaptable. It can be used to produce electrical power for a single home or company or scale up to serve an entire town.

Do Solar Panels Work With Moonlight?

The light that we perceive to be moonlight is just sunlight that has been reflected off of the moon’s surface. The moon doesn’t have its own light. As a result, its intensity is lower than that of direct sunshine.

However, the light from a full moon under a clear sky can produce energy from a solar array entirely exposed to that reflected light, at a rate of 1%–2% of the power of direct sunlight.

A full moon only provides around 0,1 lux of illumination. In other words, we get 0,0001496 watts per square meter, and that basically doesn’t have any use.

So yes, solar panels run in moonlight, but with limited capacity (1 lux produces about 0,00149 watts per square meter), which is negligible.

We use batteries, such as lithium-ion batteries, to store energy for later use and for the night.

Most of the moonlight that a solar panel can capture is in infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths, which we can’t turn into electricity.

The only type of light we can convert into usable electricity is the blue part of the spectrum.

Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

Solar panels are a great way to generate electricity, but what about at night? Do they still work when the sun goes down?

Solar panels can actually generate electricity at night, though it is insignificant compared to that made during the daytime.

This is because solar panels rely on sunlight to generate power, and there is no sunlight available at night.

However, there is moonlight, which is basically reflected sunlight.

For that reason, solar panels can still produce some electricity at night thanks to a process called the photoelectric effect.

This is when photons from light hit a material and cause it to generate an electric current.

Though there is less light available at night, there are still enough photons present to create a tiny amount of power.

Related: Anti-Solar Cells: A Photovoltaic Cell That Works at Night

How To Power a Home at Night?

Solar panels collect sunlight and produce electricity that you can use instantly or store for later.

To store the energy generated by solar panels, you need batteries called solar battery storage units.

There are two ways in which you can power your home at night using a solar panel system.

  1. solar batteries
  2. net metering

Solar Battery Units

By installing a solar battery as part of your solar power system, you can store the excess energy and use it at night.

This way, some homeowners entirely go off-grid and sever ties with traditional utility companies.

There are many different types of models of solar batteries for homes, too many to explain in a short blog post.

However, when purchasing a solar battery, pay attention to the battery capacity and choose one that can collect enough energy to power your home.

Also, avoid spending money on a battery that can store more electricity than you need.

Related: Why Do Solar Lights Need Batteries? [Can They Work Without Batteries?]

Net Metering

The other way to power your home at night is by using net metering.

Net metering is a billing method that is very popular because you don’t need to store the electrical energy produced by your solar PV panels at home.

Instead, you can export the excess energy into the grid for which you get energy credits from your utility company.

Then, when your solar panels stop producing energy at night, you can exchange energy credits for power.

Net metering makes powering your home with solar energy easy and largely eliminates the need for a solar battery.

Today, most states have net metering laws. With these laws in place, utility providers offer net metering options to solar customers.

Final Thoughts

If you have a solar energy system or plan to install one, you should know that moonlight can produce insignificant amounts of electrical energy.

That’s because moonlight is just reflected sunlight, not a direct source of photons that solar panels can transform into larger amounts of usable energy.

Nonetheless, moonlight still provides some energy.

Solar panels still cannot generate electricity using moonlight, although that is likely to happen in the future with new technological advancements. However, you have other options.

The first one is to use battery storage units, and the other is net metering.


Tim Carter
Tim Carter

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