GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — You may have seen solar panels on the roof of a house or other buildings and wondered what they are used for.
Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it into electricity that can be used by the people inside. Some power companies use solar panels as a source of electricity, too. Although sunlight produces energy, too much sunlight isn’t always a good thing.
People who manage electrical grids must keep a careful balance between the energy they generate and the energy their customers consume. This balance is important because unexpected surges in the amount of available electricity can damage electrical devices, or even trigger a power outage.
So, producing more solar energy than expected could potentially cause big problems. What about clouds? When sunlight hits low clouds, a lot of that light and heat is reflected into space, which means less solar energy.
However, certain cloudy conditions can be great to produce solar energy. One example happens when ice crystals inside of high-altitude clouds cause the sunlight to appear brighter than usual. This phenomenon is called “cloud lensing” because the high clouds act as a lens, focusing the light on a certain region.