Do Solar Panels Work at Night? | Solar Battery Storage Explained

December 11, 2020
By John Cole

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Do Solar Panels Create Energy at Night?

No. Solar panels do not work at night, since there is no sun. The photovoltaic(P\V) cells cannot produce energy without it.  However, a Solar Battery Storage system will allow solar photovoltaic systems to store the energy it produces. This way you can keep those important things running; the house lights at night, that chest freezer in the garage, or great-grandma’s oxygen tank running. You don’t want to be left in the dark after all, do you?

Solar Battery Storage Systems

You see solar panels everywhere these days. If there’s a flat surface with excellent sun exposure and won't impede everyday life in some-way, there’s probably solar panels attached. If not now, most likely, there will be soon. It’s coming, the green revolution. Or at least that’s what some say, I read. The solar world has come a long way in a half a century. However, Solar Battery Storage systems have only been in every-day, public operation, for less than ten years. Naturally one can only assume that they will improve with the technology, and in a year or so, this article may be obsolete. .Typically most think that the solar panels they are looking at are powering and providing energy to whatever they’re connected to. This is true. So what happens once the sun sets, day turns to night or the sun is hidden due to cloud cover? Well, if you have a solar battery storage system, you can keep on powering whatever it is that you desire(within reason). No solar battery storage, no power. To understand why one should invest in a solar array with a battery system over a regular rooftop solar system tied directly to the electric grid, it must be explained. Batteries are a strategic part of any home\properties independence. For this article, we are going to state the batteries are attached to a solar p\v system.

A Quick History

According to our fine friends with The Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, solar energy design  isn’t even from this century! Of course, man has been harnessing the sun's energy since the days of the Dinosaur.

Crazy enough as it is, the first solar photovoltaic(P\V) cells created conductive energy 1954! The very first Solar Battery was conceived and produced in December of 1955. The technology at the time was advancing so quickly, becoming efficient enough and reliable enough that it’s first use in an Outer Space expedition was in 1958. Then for quite some time, the technology stalled. It wasn’t until finally in 2014, at Ohio State University, that an Actual Solar Battery was proven to work successfully, and was a practical size. It was almost three years later that these battery systems emerged in the private sector. So the technology is new,ish in the grand scheme solar p\v systems.

Energy storage technology

TIED to the Grid: 

Let’s forget batteries and anything solar for one second. If ANYTHING has power, and is not producing its own energy, it’s tied into the area’s electric grid. When energy is produced, it is sent from the power plant to the grid, a giant battery of sorts and then out to the community. Solar energy is created when sunlight hits the solar p/v array, which turns the light into an electrical  DC current. This DC current can then be converted to AC power if needed, depending if the system is  AC or DC. We will get into all this later. 

Solar production is always at its lowest during the early morning and evening hours when the sun is making its first and last impressions. However this is when homes use the most energy. You know the routine; waking up, showers, breakfast, news, internet, dinner, movies,parties, etc.. It all happens in the morning and evenings, usually. These are the times when the home will need A LOT of power, but solar production is just kicking off, building momentum or winding down.

All through these times and most importantly, at night, individuals with non-battery solar panels usually will be pulling most of the electricity to power their home from the grid. Once the Sun is shining, the home will use the crisp, clean solar produced power.  This is called the “grid-tied” system  and requires no battery.


On beautiful days, when the sun is shining it’s brightest and a solar system produces even more energy that it needs, the extra electricity is sent through the lines to the grid. If the system is in a state that offers its residents net-energy metering, you can earn credit when the extra power is transferred to the Grid.This is net metering. Even if the system doesn’t produce extra electricity, the system can still pull from the grid if it’s connected. When the system pulls from grid power, that electricity is coming from a general station. Since the production of energy on the national level comes from many sources including fossil fuels, the energy your property is pulling may not be “green” energy, like you feed into it.

AC\DC and I’m not talking about the Rock Band

If you want to have power guaranteed on demand, battery storage systems may be ideal for those in rural areas, places that the power grid is unreliable or an area that experiences a lot of bad weather and natural disasters. Some just simply love the concept of living off the grid or producing and using 100% clean, renewable energy. If you said “that’s me” to any of those, well, Solar Battery Storage is the answer.

If the option to connect to the grid is available, the most common and standard system is the Hybrid system.  These are systems that are solar panels with battery banks on-site and a grid connection. All working nice and happily together like a mariachi band. Said batteries are set to maximize using your own solar power and are also available for when the grid goes down, a tree knocks a power line down and you lose power. If there is a battery installed and charged, it is likely that the home may not need much of the grid, if any at all, depending upon the system size.

What is an Alternating Current & Direct Current?

Homes run on Alternating Current (AC) and almost every battery out there needs Direct Current (DC) to charge the batteries.  Take a look at your laptop cable with that big box-its converting the AC power coming in from the wall, turning it into DC power to charge that laptop’s battery. AC batteries are ones that can receive incoming AC power, use a built-in converter to convert to DC power, which, charges the battery. When the battery sends out power to the property, the inverter converts the DC power coming from the battery pack into AC, which then provides the power. Are you still following me? Need a picture drawn? It sure took me a minute to figure it all out. The majority of newer solar batteries are AC. The biggest advantage of AC batteries is that you can use them with practically any solar system in the world, making upgrades a breeze.

On the flip side, DC batteries do not come with inverters built in, therefore must get charged directly from the DC power. To do this, a specialized inverter is required that will allow DC power produced by the panels into the battery without inverting it to AC first. Once the battery has to power the home, the DC power from the solar array is sent to the solar inverter, where it will be converted into AC that is required for the home. Confusing, eh? Lets see if we can simplify. One key advantage of DC batteries is their round-trip efficiency. Anytime electricity is inverted from DC to AC, or the other way around, roughly 5% of the power is lost to heat.  In layman's terms, the more times power is inverted, the more energy is lost.DC batteries tend to be cheaper, since obviously they don't include additional inverter hardware.

Time of Usage Rebates from the Utility

Many buy batteries to cover the home from an outage on the grid. Once an outage occurs, the system kicks in and powers the circuits chosen. Same purpose as a generator, however, many are installing batteries to take advantage of time-of-use(TOU) rate plans from their utility companies. Once a place installs solar, some utility companies switch their clients to TOU rates because the plans mirror more accurately the changes in wholesale power prices.  With the TOU rate plan, any extra energy that any panels produce in the day is less valuable than the power taken in from the grid at night. This results in, from using solar batteries , saving the owner money by avoiding high utility charges during peak hours

It Might be Darn Good to Have a Battery System

Living in a remote or isolated area provides many challenges. Electricity is only a small part of that. In order to power your lights or what-nots, you will need a battery storage device to capture the solar generation from your panels for later use.More than ever before, many people are venturing  into the wilderness to vacation, live, earn a living or just get away.  Some of the battery systems today are so compact and efficient that you can take them anywhere, and power almost whatever you need.  Third world countries and even Power Nations are joining the race toi create battery storage systems everywhere. Recently, China  just flipped the power switch to the ‘on’ position for the World's largest solar farm and battery storage plant.  Villages and towns now have electricity for running water, lights, emergency facilities and many other benefits from this technology.

However, Battery Storage Systems are NOT for Everyone!

If you don’t really care how the electricity is produced, have a beef with burning fossil fuels, and are not worried about power outages, you probably don’t need a battery system. Most power outages in the United States are fixed within hours or at its worst, days. So no big deal, right? However, in this day and age, there are plenty of options for financing, loan options, and other avenues to benefit from Solar Storage systems without breaking the bank. 


The common solar battery storage capacity is sized to provide electricity to critical or specified loads, for about one or two days during a power outage. So, while a Battery could save someone some headaches,it boils down to a personal decision on the cost versus benefits. When purchasing either your solar system or adding on batteries alone, you can qualify for state rebates, just like California’s SGIP.  Check with your state and local electric companies for further incentives and tax breaks. Every year the Solar Battery Storage Market expands exponentially as the technology advances. These systems become more efficient, even smaller,  WAY more powerful, and significantly reduce the carbon footprint on Earth. Once, not too long ago, Battery Storage was a concept only for residential homes. Now, several states are building massive batteries to store and power their cities. If adding a Battery system to your set-up is your next step, please contact your utility company or solar panel sales representative for all the finer details.

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