24 Jun From dusk to dawn: solar energy at night
ESS Utility delves into solar power and how the latest solution will mean generating energy in the dark.
With renewable energy at the forefront focus for power generation and the answer to reaching net zero, solar power is amongst the most popular method of converting renewable resources to electricity.
Sunlight is used to generate energy either directly using photovoltaics, indirectly using concentrated power or a combination of both. As useful as this method is, there is room for improvement as it currently only captures a fraction of the total energy falling on them. Even high powered panels fall short compared to non-renewable methods because they can’t generate energy at night. But what if they could?
Light up the sky
Researchers from all around the world have been looking for ways to improve solar power generation, and those from the University of California seem to have found a solution: ‘Anti-solar panels’.
Although they look the same as PVs, they don’t use the same technology. Solar panels work because they are cold compared to the sun, helping to absorb sunlight and covert it to energy more efficiently. Anti-solar panels work in the reverse: the night sky and space is cold, so these panels would use a thermoradiative cell (a device that generates energy thanks to radiative cooling) to emit infrared radiation from Earth to space to create electron-hole pairs, thus generating electricity by capturing that power.
Thermoradiative cells are already in use in manufacturing to convert waste heat, such as the high temperatures generated from engines, so it’s proven that the technology works. The next step is to figure out what other materials will be able to produce an effective panel to produce nighttime energy. Solar panels are made of silicon, which are good for trapping heat and light, and this new device would have to be made of something that can capture long wavelength light – researchers are currently looking at mercury alloys for the task in hand.
Although anti-solar panels are estimated to produce only a quarter of the power solar panels produce due to the lower energy of infrared light, there is no denying that this new method is a cheaper and inexpensive way to keep generating renewable energy 24 hours a day.
At ESS Utility, we help businesses with green solutions by installing solar PVs to help them cut their energy bills and boost their revenues. Find out more about how we can help you with your solar installations.