When solar panels were first developed in 1954 – yes, you read that right – they were incredibly expensive. Very few people could afford to have them installed. Solar panels have since become mainstream, however, and cost anywhere from $112 to $450.
Thanks to solar meters, people with solar power panels can use their panels’ power whenever they’d like. Net metering is a billing mechanism for electricity that allows solar panels to send excess energy back to the grid. This surplus gets credited to the owner, and those credits can apply to any future bill.
Old Technology, New Thinking
Classic solar panels absorb sun rays during the day, even in cloudy or rainy weather, storing that energy for current or future use. However, what they haven’t been able to do – until now – is collect energy during the nighttime hours.
Thanks to a new solar panel technology out of Stanford University, solar panels are more than pulling their weight now. According to an article in New Scientist, Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, and his colleagues modified a solar cell–the main solar panel component–to collect energy from the air. This component causes enough energy to be accumulated to power a phone or run an LED light.
How It Works
Solar panels collect heat that transforms into energy during the day, and when nightfall comes, they radiate that heat, sending it in the direction of cooler temperatures. Because of this phenomenon, these new solar panels can pull energy from the warmer air surrounding them. They're almost recycling their own collection process, gathering what would have been lost otherwise.
And while it might not be to the extent that they gain during the daytime, it still enough power for smaller tasks – and every little bit adds up.
Once Shanhui Fan and his team is able to expand this modification to amass more significant amounts of power, the possibilities would be exceptional.
- Replenishable Energy – Solar power will continue to be replenishable as long as the sun rises. As a renewable resource, it provides clean energy, which is a big selling point for environmentally conscious people.
- Free Energy – while a solar power system costs upfront, it is a system that will eventually pay for itself over and over again. Not only will you not have to pay a monthly electric bill, eventually, the power company will be paying you for the credits your solar power system creates in the electrical grid.
- Solar Power is Dependable – No one likes losing money. Thankfully, investing in solar power means that your money is going to an investment that will only reap benefits for you. Even on cloudy and rainy days, your solar system will continue to collect energy – including at night!
- Remote Areas – Thanks to the availability of solar power, areas that were once wholly off-grid no longer have to be. Places that don’t have access to main power grids due to their extreme location or other mitigating factors can now get accessible energy through a solar power system. Or stay isolated without worrying about adverse consequences.
That might not sound like an impressive achievement, but the implications of the accomplishment set a whole new level of goals for solar panel companies. Figuring out how to maximize the energy collection during the night would be the next logical step. Imagine if solar panels could collect equivalent energy amounts at night as they do during the day.
According to Energy Sage, panels that could collect energy 24/7 would be a massive boost for green energy and supply hundreds of thousands of kilowatt-hours back to the electrical grid, which could certainly use a helping hand.
By easing the stress on the electrical grid during transmission, solar energy gives back more than just a lower energy bill to the person who purchases the solar system. Even those who aren’t using solar power still benefit from a healthier electrical grid.
Twenty-Four-Seven Energy Collection
With the possibility of energy capture around the clock, the new nighttime solar power capabilities could mean much more help for the electrical grid and all energy users. Helping the electrical grid is excellent news for the summer months when “summer peaking” occurs.
Summer peaking is when the afternoons are the hottest for most people but also when solar panels do their best work. The more energy they collect, the more kilowatt-hours get stored. Earn enough solar credits, and your bill gets wiped out. Not only that, but if you end up with excess credits, the energy company may even pay you for them.
Now you're making money from your electrical company, instead of the other way around – with zero extra effort. Even if you’ve already invested in a solar system, this nighttime solar modification can only mean more benefits as the technology expands.
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