Hybrid Solar Panels: Solar Energy Rain or Shine

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    Innovations in solar technology stretch far beyond things like solar cars and roads. Many of those focused on solar innovation are looking to improve efficiency and longevity.  

    While it is not yet commercially viable, scientists in a laboratory at Soochow University in China have developed solar cells that can generate electricity from sun AND rain. The new device places two transparent polymer layers on top of a solar photovoltaic (PV) cell. When the raindrops fall onto the layers and roll off, Triboelectric Nanogenerators (TENGs) create a charge from the friction. The two layers must be transparent so that the PV cell can still function when it is sunny.  

    Though this new technology still has between three and five years before it could be implemented in solar panels, it could take solar panels to the next level, allowing solar panels to produce energy when it rains, during the day or at night.

    Viability of Hybrid Solar Cells

    Since viability is a concern, scientists are exploring other ways to innovate with hybrid solar cells. And that may include simply doing a better job of capturing the full spectrum of solar energy. A new concept being explored could bring highly-efficient solar power by combining three types of technologies that convert different parts of the light spectrum and store energy for after the sun goes down. The approach combines solar PV cells which convert light into electricity, thermoelectric devices that convert heat into electricity, and steam turbines to generate electricity.

    Another hybrid power panel concept involves simultaneously generating electricity from sunlight, rain drops, and wind around the clock. This type of model would perform best when any or all three resources are available in the environment. The benefits to this model include cost-effectiveness and expanded working time. This concept could be adopted in a variety of circumstances and change the traditional way of solar energy harvesting.

    But what about Battery Storage? 

    While most solar panels are connected to the grid and produce power from the sun’s rays, there is plenty of work going on to create hybrid panels and devices that allow battery power storage. You’ve already learned about the Hybrid technology on its way, so click here to learn more about solar battery technology.