Due to Con Edison’s price hikes in recent years, solar energy has become a popular and sustainable alternative to traditional sources of energy in New York City. Even with its growth in popularity, many people are still curious about whether solar panels work at night.

The short answer is: No. Solar panels do not generate energy at night.

But even though solar panels don’t work at night, there are still ways to keep your home powered by the sun all day (and night) long! Read on to explore the mechanics of solar energy, why solar panels don’t generate energy at night, and how net metering keeps solar-powered New Yorkers energized all year ‘round!

How Solar Energy Works

Sunlight is made up of tiny particles called photons. Solar panels work by using the photovoltaic effect to convert these photons into direct current (DC) electricity. This DC electricity is then sent to an inverter, which converts it into alternating current (AC) electricity.

AC electricity is used to power homes, co-ops, businesses, and the grid. Since solar panel systems are connected to a utility meter, any excess electricity is exported to the grid and credited to the property owner via net metering.

Diagram of how solar energy works to power a home
A diagram demonstrating how residential solar in NYC works.

Why don’t solar panels work at night?

Solar panels don’t work at night because they require sunlight to generate electricity. Without sunlight, the photovoltaic (PV) cells, or solar cells, in the panels cannot create an electric field, and therefore cannot generate electricity. This is also why your solar energy system may produce slightly less on a cloudy day than it would on a clear, sunny day.

Can other sources of light power my solar panels at night?

Solar panels require direct sunlight to generate electricity, so other sources of light, such as moonlight or streetlights, cannot power them at night. 

Interestingly, there are solar technologies being developed that use the change in temperature of solar panels to generate electricity (such as thermoelectric generators), but they are still in the experimental stage and not widely available.

Storing Solar Energy for Nighttime Use

A big solar myth is that solar doesn’t work when it isn’t sunny. While solar panels cannot generate electricity at night, the good news is that solar energy can still be stored for nighttime use. In fact, there are two main ways to store solar energy: net metering and battery storage.

Net Metering

Net metering is a billing mechanism that allows you to store your solar energy as a retail energy credit to be used at a later date.

As a NYC residential solar owner, you remain connected to the grid and any excess energy your system produces will be exported into the grid. Once your solar array is installed, the utility company will begin tracking how much energy flows in and out of your home, and credit you for your export on future electric bills.

Net metering in New York City credits you at the retail rate for energy your system produces (this is not the case in other regions or states, like California’s net metering program).

Solar Battery Storage

Battery storage systems store excess solar energy generated during the day, which can then be used to power homes at night when solar panels are not generating electricity or during a power outage when the power grid is offline.

Is solar energy a reliable source of power at night in NYC?

Solar energy is a very reliable and sustainable source of power at night in New York City when combined with the power of net metering. 

There are many advantages to solar! Not only will your home be powered 24/7, you will also save a substantial amount of money from monthly electric bills, raise your home’s value, AND reduce your carbon footprint.

solar canopy at night brooklyn nyc with skyline
Though your solar canopy may not create electricity at night, it can create an excellent rooftop hangout!

Advances in Solar Technology

Solar technology is always making advances, thanks to scientists and researchers continuing to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar power. With government incentives at an all-time high and attractive solar panel financing available, now is the perfect time to go solar.

For homeowners who want to be solar powered in NYC, Brooklyn SolarWorks has developed unique solutions to bring reliable and sustainable flat roof solar to the city.

Powering Your Home All Day with Solar in NYC

The amount of energy generated by solar panels depends on the amount of sunlight they receive, which can be limited in a city with tall buildings and a lot of shade. Luckily, when you go solar with Brooklyn SolarWorks you can rest assured knowing your custom-designed solar system is generating the most energy possible. 

With your solar energy and Con Edison’s net metering system, your home will be solar powered all hours of the day. 
Ready to get started? Schedule your free consultation and home assessment today!

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