What Kind of Light Do My Solar Panels Need?

Solar panels are designed to work with natural sunlight, since they are mostly used outdoors and in space. But can they work with other sources of light? The answer might surprise you. 

No matter if you live in Corona or  Chula Vista, CA, our experts can assign expert solar panel installers, and answer any questions you may have about solar technology. In this article, we will discuss the types of light solar panels respond to and dispel some common misconceptions. 

Can solar panels work with artificial light?

Solar panels are called solar panels for a reason–they are designed to work with sunlight, for example solar radiation. Sunlight refers to a portion of the Sun’s electromagnetic radiation, particularly that that falls under infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. 

However, solar panels don’t respond to all wavelengths within the solar radiation spectrum. Namely, solar cells work best when exposed to wavelengths in the red to violet range. By contrast, infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths have too little and too much energy, respectively, to power solar cells. 

Artificial sources of light 

Solar cells can also work with artificial light sources that mimic sunlight, such as fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. In this form, solar cells can power small devices such as watches and calculators. 

Although solar panels can work under artificial light, they can never achieve the same performance as with natural sunlight. There are several reasons for this: 

  • Loss conversion: In order to use artificial light to power a solar cell, you first need to convert the electricity to light for it to be converted back into electricity. During the conversion, a certain amount of energy is lost. 
  • Design of artificial light: Since artificial lights aren’t designed to efficiently power solar cells, they tend to be poor substitutes for natural sunlight. Typical artificial lighting is designed with safety in mind, instead of energy efficiency. 
  • Light barriers: Most artificial lights have barriers to light, such as ballasts and bulbs. These barriers are designed to temper the intensity of light and diffuse it. This is why artificial light sources tend to be less efficient overall. 

Do solar panels work with Moonlight?

Solar cells depend on raw natural sunlight to generate electricity. More precisely, solar panels work when they are exposed to photons, elementary particles carrying the electromagnetic radiant energy generated by the Sun. 

The Moon “shines” because its surface reflects the light energy of the Sun. In fact, the Moon reflects only about 3-12% of the sunlight that hits it, despite appearing very bright. Considering that it doesn’t generate its own light, i.e. photons, the Moon is unable to power solar panels. 

However, if you were to install solar panels on the Moon itself, they would be able to generate electricity when exposed to sunlight! What’s more, solar panels are likely to be more efficient on the Moon than they are on Earth. The reason for this is that the Moon is exposed to sunlight constantly, except during a lunar eclipse, and the fact that sunlight wouldn’t have to travel through the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Contact the Chula Vista, CA solar panel installers


An increasing number of homeowners are curious about solar energy. Among other things, they’d like to know how well solar panels hold up in hailstorms, whether they can withstand strong winds, and how safe solar arrays are in thunderstorms

At Action Solar, we have all the answers. As the leading solar pros in Chula Vista, National City, and other neighborhoods in the San Diego metropolitan area, we are fully qualified to advise you and install your solar panels per the highest industry standards. Contact us now.