Photovoltaic panels can use direct or indirect sunlight to generate power, though they are most effective in direct sunlight. Solar panels still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. Rain actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt. If you live in an area with a strong net metering policy, energy generated by your panels during sunny hours will offset energy that you use at night and other times when your system isn’t operating at full capacity. Naturally, cloud cover reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the panels, but the system will produce some electricity and/or heat on all but the most overcast days.
Sunlight is important for solar, but even cloudy areas are great for solar energy. It doesn’t matter as much where you live, whether it’s the Northeast or Southwest. What matters more is your roof (or property, if you’re thinking of a ground system). As long as your roof is free of shade and faces the South, East, or West, you’ll get plenty of sunshine for panels.
The array pictured on the right produces over 5,000 kWh each January.