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Just how reliable is solar energy?

Cloud covering the sun

In the UK, solar power is considered a microgeneration technology that cannot be relied on to help meet peak demand for electricity. It is an inherently intermittent way to generate electricity because the sun does not shine all the time.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels only generate electricity while exposed to sunlight. This means they cannot generate any electricity at all during the night, and even during the day the amount of electricity they can generate is limited by the weather: thanks to cloud cover, in a typical UK location the sun only shines for 34% of a typical day. Furthermore, demand for electricity does not always coincide with times when the sun is shining. In winter, for example, more lighting and heating is needed, but the days are shorter, colder and prone to be cloudy.

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