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Melissa Joskow / Media Matters for America

By Ted MacDonald

The major broadcast and cable news networks largely neglected to cover a landmark United Nations (UN) report on a devastating decline in biodiversity.

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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

By Katie Sullivan and Lis Power

On Tuesday, Harvard researchers published a study estimating that approximately 5,000 deaths can be linked to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The same day, ABC canceled Roseanne Barr's eponymous show Roseanne after Barr sent a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, an adviser to former President Barack Obama. Cable news covered Barr's tweet and her show's cancellation 16 times as much as the deaths of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

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MAXSHOT / iStock / Getty Images

Solar panels allow you to harness the sun's clean, renewable energy, potentially cutting your electric bills as well as your environmental footprint. But do solar panels work on cloudy days, or during seasons of less-than-optimal sun exposure? For homeowners who live outside of the Sun Belt, this is a critical question to consider before moving ahead with solar panel installation.

In this article, we'll go over how solar panels work on cloudy days, whether solar panels work at night, and how to ensure you always have accessible power — even when your panels aren't producing solar energy.

How Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels can use both direct and indirect sunlight to generate electrical power. This means they can still be productive even when there is cloud coverage. With that said, solar panels are most efficient and productive when they are soaking up direct sunlight on sunny days.

While solar panels still work even when the light is reflected or partially obstructed by clouds, their energy production capacity will be diminished. On average, solar panels will generate 10 to 25% of their normal power output on days with heavy cloud coverage.

With clouds usually comes rain, and here's a fact that might surprise you: Rain actually helps solar panels work more effectively. That's because rain washes away any dirt or dust that has gathered on your panels so that they can more efficiently absorb sunlight.

Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

While solar panels can still function on cloudy days, they cannot work at night. The reason for this is simple: Solar panels work because of a scientific principle called the photovoltaic effect, wherein solar cells are activated by sunlight, generating electrical current. Without light, the photovoltaic effect cannot be triggered, and no electric power can be generated.

One way to tell if your panels are still producing energy is to look at public lights. As a general rule of thumb, if street lamps or other lights are turned off — whether on cloudy days or in the evening — your solar panels will be producing energy. If they're illuminated, it's likely too dark out for your solar panel system to work.

Storing Solar Energy to Use on Cloudy Days and at Night

During hours of peak sunlight, your solar panels may actually generate more power than you need. This surplus power can be used to provide extra electricity on cloudy days or at night.

But how do you store this energy for future use? There are a couple of options to consider:

You can store surplus energy in a solar battery.

When you add a solar battery to your residential solar installation, any excess electricity can be collected and used during hours of suboptimal sun exposure, including nighttime hours and during exceptionally cloudy weather.

Batteries may allow you to run your solar PV system all day long, though there are some drawbacks of battery storage to be aware of:

  • It's one more thing you need to install.
  • It adds to the total cost of your solar system.
  • Batteries will take up a bit of space.
  • You will likely need multiple batteries if you want electricity for more than a handful of hours. For example, Tesla solar installations require two Powerwall batteries if your system is over 13 kilowatts.

You can use a net metering program.

Net metering programs enable you to transmit any excess power your system produces into your municipal electric grid, receiving credits from your utility company. Those credits can be cashed in to offset any electrical costs you incur on overcast days or at night when you cannot power your home with solar energy alone.

Net metering can ultimately be a cost-effective option and can significantly lower your electricity bills, but there are a few drawbacks to consider, including:

  • You may not always break even.
  • In some cases, you may still owe some money to your utility provider.
  • Net metering programs are not offered in all areas and by all utility companies.

Is Residential Solar Right for You?

Now that you know solar panels can work even when the sun isn't directly shining and that there are ways to store your energy for times your panels aren't producing electricity, you may be more interested in installing your own system.

You can get started with a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area by filling out the 30-second form below.

FAQ: Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

How efficient are solar panels on cloudy days?

It depends on the panels, but as a rule of thumb, you can expect your solar panels to work at 10 to 25% efficiency on cloudy days.

How do solar panels work when there is no sun?

If there is literally no sunlight (e.g., at night), then solar panels do not work. This is because the photovoltaic effect, which is the process through which panels convert sunlight into energy, requires there to be some light available to convert.

However, you can potentially use surplus solar power that you've stored in a battery. Also note that solar panels can work with indirect light, meaning they can function even when the sun is obscured by cloud coverage.

Do solar panels work on snowy days?

If there is cloud coverage and diminished sunlight, then solar panels will not work at their maximum efficiency level on snowy days. With that said, the snow itself is usually not a problem, particularly because a dusting of snow is easily whisked away by the wind.

Snow will only impede your solar panels if the snowfall is so extreme that the panels become completely buried, or if the weight of the snow compromises the integrity of your solar panel structures.

Will my solar panels generate electricity during cloudy, rainy or snowy days?

Cloudy days may limit your solar panel's efficiency, but you'll still be able to generate some electricity. Rainy days can actually help clean your panels, making them even more effective. And snowy days are only a problem if the snow is so extreme that the panels are totally submerged, without any part of them exposed to the sun.

From the Dec. 2 edition of CNN Newsroom:

Clarissa Ward: Michael Mann is one of the country's top climate scientists. He has testified before Congress about the threat posed by climate change.

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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

By Evlondo Cooper

Roy Moore, Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, has drawn media attention for his extreme and dangerous views on homosexuality, birtherism, and the role of Christianity in government (even though much of the coverage has been inadequate and misleadingly framed). But one of his extreme positions has received almost no major media attention at all: his absolute denial of climate science.

Media Matters has found that, from the time Moore announced his candidacy on April 26 to Oct. 31, the major broadcast evening news shows, prime-time cable news programs and national newspapers have all neglected to report on Moore's views on climate change, one of the most significant issues he would face if elected to the U.S. Senate. Over the same period, four of the top five largest-circulation newspapers in Alabama also failed to report on Moore and climate change.

The Montgomery Advertiser is the outlier: The Alabama newspaper asked Moore's campaign about climate change but didn't receive an answer. In July, the paper ran an article about climate change and the Senate race, reporting that "Moore's campaign declined to answer questions on the subject." In August, the Advertiser again reported that Moore "declined to answer questions on the issue."

Both Advertiser articles refer to Moore's campaign website, which lists a brief position on energy but makes no mention of the climate: "To gain independence from foreign oil, we need to foster development of our own natural resources involving nuclear, solar, wind, and fossil fuels. Coal mining and oil drilling should be encouraged, subject only to reasonable regulations."

However, despite his recent reticence on the subject, Moore has made his climate denial clear in the past. In 2009, he published an op-ed about climate change on fringe website WorldNetDaily, as HuffPost's Alexander C. Kaufman recently pointed out. From the WND op-ed:

"Not only is there no constitutional authority for Congress to regulate carbon emissions, but the premise of 'global warming' and 'climate change' upon which such environmental theories are based does not have the support of a scientific consensus.

[...]

Not only do scientists disagree on 'global warming,' but there is little hard evidence that carbon emissions cause changes to the global climate."

This is an extreme manifestation of climate science denial, and it's outright false.

Moore—who identifies as a Southern Baptist and addressed the Southern Baptist Convention's Pastors' Conference in 2005—has a denialist position on climate change science that aligns with the convention's stance, as do his positions on same-sex marriage and displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings. In 2007, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution on global warming that cast doubt on climate science and opposed climate action:

"WHEREAS, Many scientists reject the idea of catastrophic human-induced global warming;

[...]

RESOLVED, That we consider proposals to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions based on a maximum acceptable global temperature goal to be very dangerous, since attempts to meet the goal could lead to a succession of mandates of deeper cuts in emissions, which may have no appreciable effect if humans are not the principal cause of global warming, and could lead to major economic hardships on a worldwide scale;"

And in December 2016, as Kaufman reported, 12 former Southern Baptist Convention presidents joined other evangelical leaders in signing a letter in support of Scott Pruitt's nomination to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, defending Pruitt's call for "a continuing debate" on climate science.

Mainstream media have a history of inadequate reporting on climate change, especially during political campaigns. But global warming is expected to have serious negative effects on Alabama, including more severe drought, sea-level rise, and increased dangerous heat days, and many national and international leaders have called climate change one of the greatest challenges of our time.

In order to provide a full, fair picture of the Alabama Senate race and Moore's fitness to be a senator, media should report on his climate denial in addition to his other extreme and disturbing beliefs. And there's a clear contrast to draw, as Moore's Democratic challenger, Doug Jones, has made addressing climate change a key part of his platform.

Methodology: Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of print and television outlets using the search terms "Roy Moore" and "climate change" or "global warming." Our search covered the time period between April 26, 2017, the date Roy Moore announced his candidacy, and Oct. 31, 2017. For television, we searched transcripts of the broadcast evening news shows on ABC, CBS and NBC and transcripts of prime-time, weekday programs on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. For print coverage, we searched pieces published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Birmingham News, Press-Register (Mobile), The Huntsville Times, The Tuscaloosa News and Montgomery Advertiser. We also searched Factiva for pieces published in The Wall Street Journal.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Media Matters for America.

From the Sept. 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

PETE HEGSETH (CO-HOST): We know Hollywood has got left-wing bias. The media has got left-wing bias. Higher education, universities and colleges. But what we're looking at today is not even just that. It's high schools, it's junior highs, and parents need to be engaged and aware. What's your advice for them?

JULIE GUNLOCK: Well, you're right. More and more now these schools, elementary schools, middle schools are taking on the role—are really supplanting parents. You look at schools today. Kids can be dropped off at 6:30 in the morning. They get three meals a day. There's after care. There's even health care services at some schools. So, really schools have tried more and more to take on the role of parenting, and now we're seeing it in political issues. They're telling children this is how you should think about certain issues. This is how you should believe. This is the correct way to think on these issues. It's very disturbing, and parental rights are absolutely left out of the picture.

HEGSETH: We see it more and more every year. California's being criticized for allowing transgender issues to be taught in the classroom.

GUNLOCK: Right.

HEGSETH: A New York school board wants to include climate change in what they're instructing their students.

GUNLOCK: Right.

HEGSETH: You say parents need to be actively and aggressively involved. What does that mean?

GUNLOCK: I really do. I think particularly conservatives tend to be very polite and quiet, and they don't like to sort of cause a stir. But you've got to do that. You've got to go to your school. Meet with your principal. Meet with your teachers. Ask for the curriculum. Review it, and if there is something that you don't like, opt out. Now, some states don't allow people to opt out, and that's very unfortunate. But that is why it's important at the beginning of the year that you meet with the officials at the school and say I don't want this happening. I don't want politics in the classroom. And there are certain subjects that I believe, as a parent, I need to talk to my child, not the teacher.

HEGSETH: That's a great recommendation. And run for school boards so that you can be a part of changing it if you want to. But too many parents, you're right, are disengaged. They don't understand that even our public schools today so many of which have an agenda.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Media Matters for America.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

By Kevin Kalhoefer

USA Today has once again invited a climate denier onto its opinion pages to cast doubt on mainstream science, and the paper failed to disclose the author's numerous industry ties.

On Aug. 14, USA Today's editorial board wrote a well-reasoned editorial highlighting the scientific consensus around climate science, titled Case for climate change grows ever stronger. The board noted that the findings of a draft federal climate report provided "ever more troubling evidence" that "humanity is responsible for a dangerously warming planet."

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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

By Kevin Kalhoefer

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has appeared on Fox News twice as often as on other cable and broadcast networks combined, and he has frequently granted interviews to right-wing talk radio shows and other climate-denying outlets, Media Matters has found.

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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters for America

By Lisa Hymas

Energy Sec. Rick Perry has ordered his department to produce a study on whether the ongoing shift toward renewable energy is affecting the reliability of the electrical grid. A number of experts, clean-energy advocates and politicians on both sides of the aisle believe the study is intended to be biased in favor of the coal and nuclear industries, which have been struggling in recent years.

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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

By Kevin Kalhoefer

Newsweek missed multiple opportunities to disclose the fossil fuel ties of industry groups when it re-published a Daily Signal article promoting allegations of collusion between Russia and environmental groups that oppose fracking.

On July 11, Newsweek posted an article by Kevin Mooney that first appeared in The Daily Signal about a letter House science committee members Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Randy Weber (R-TX) had written to Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin. According to Mooney, the congressmen alleged that "the Russian government has been colluding with environmental groups to circulate 'disinformation' and 'propaganda' aimed at undermining hydraulic fracturing" in order to prop up Russian oil prices by reducing the U.S.' natural gas production.

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samchills / Flickr

The New York Times has done some stellar reporting on climate change, and it's poised to do more thanks to its recent creation of a dedicated climate team. See, for instance, its impressive ongoing series on how climate change is affecting major cities, and another recent multimedia series on the melting of Antarctica.

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Kimberly Guilfoyle (Co-Host): I don't think this is a deal that anybody should be crying about. Like we said, it's non-binding, and the United States is already a clean energy, oil and gas leader. So, we can keep doing what we're doing, we can keep reducing our emissions. Why would we in fact put ourselves at an economic disadvantage, giving and subsidizing an economic windfall to other countries, in sort of a climate redistribution of wealth scheme? It makes no sense to me.

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ABC News Video

By Kevin Kalhoefer & Lisa Hymas

President Donald Trump has decided to exit the Paris climate agreement, according to Axios. The news site also reported that the Scott Pruitt-led U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been "quietly working" with opponents of the agreement to help them place op-eds in newspapers. Media Matters identified a number of anti-Paris agreement op-eds that have been published in papers around the U.S. in recent weeks, spreading misinformation about the expected economic impacts of the agreement, the commitment of developing countries to cutting emissions and climate science in general.

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