Is solar destined to remain silent at night?
Some questions have definite answers. Others will always have possibilities.
It has been acknowledged over the years that solar panels work best during the day when the sun is out and unobstructed. At nighttime and during the winter season, less sunlight reaches the panels and converts to energy. The good news is that there really is no need to fret in most cases since solutions are out there. If power is needed at night or on those winter days, energy can be conserved by utilizing a utility grid or a battery bank.
The utility grid can be used simultaneously with solar power and the battery bank can convert solar energy into electricity throughout the day to be stored for later use. Although the battery bank works well and has been successful and widely used by primarily small-scale environments, many people have opted out of this option because they find it unnecessary. This is definitely a decision to be discussed with your installation company because they can give you feedback and recommendations based on the analysis of your needs and wants. As far as large-scale projects are concerned, the efforts of expanding to wider use in that capacity are definitely being driven as well.
If you’re driving at night, try to observe the streetlights as you vroom vroom your way to your intended destination. Many of these lights, if you notice, are actually operated by solar power and are a great example of solar energy that – wait for it…..work at night! Ding ding ding! The solar panels that are installed onto these streetlights conserve enough solar energy throughout the daytime to function at night and light up the streetlamps.
Today, researchers continue to come up with concepts, prototypes, and technology with the potential to not only be cost-effective, imprinted on flexible materials, and would be able to harvest the energy from the sun in order to work even after the sun goes down. One of the companies that have tapped into this research and development is the Idaho National Laboratory. Their technique involves embedding square spirals of conducting metal onto a sheet of plastic. These sheets are called nanoantennas.
Thus, on top of absorbing UV light, the solar panels also absorb infrared energy by these nanoantennas. What happens is that these nanoantennas absorb infrared energy that has been previously absorbed by the earth during the day even after the sun has set. With the combination of energy from sunlight as well as energy from the earth’s heat, the nanoantennas may have greater efficiency than the conventional solar cells.
Can you imagine the progress and advancements this type of technology can do?
In conclusion, do solar panels work at night? My answer? It’s possible, and possible is half the battle. But regardless of nighttime limitations, solar panels still prove to be a highly beneficial energy efficient and environmentally friendly method of saving money, creating power, preserving medicine and food, and helping to expand education across the world.