The fact of the matter is, solar power is dependent on the weather and solar panels don’t generate enough energy if there’s no sun shining, which means that they don’t operate all day and on a cloudy day they function under capacity. Solar panels cannot be turned on or off nor do they respond according to the energy needs of the grid, instead, they have to work around the productivity of solar panels.
Due to these two issues, engineers and researchers have tried to overcome these shortcomings by looking at raindrops to be the next source of energy and other scientists have looked at other various approaches that we will see below.
The most advanced in development and implementation is energy storage, where solar panels create excess energy which is more than grids can absorb and this energy used when the sun does not shine. Even though this method is promising, it’s still too expensive to be implemented at a large scale and compete with fossil fuels. If the price for energy storage is to be applied across the energy industry and reach 100% in renewables, the cost will need to reach $20 per kW hour by 2030.
Other researcher studies believe that without “obstacles like rain, clouds or dark of the night”, solar arrays beyond the stratosphere would receive more concentrated solar rays than they would on Earth because the panels would not be affected by the unavoidable seasons of our planet. Researchers call this new development, SSP or Space Solar Power which works similarly to that of regular solar power. The only difference is that instead of having solar panels on the surface of the earth, they would be installed on orbiting satellites or stationed on the moon. The produced electricity from the moon would then be converted into microwaves and sent to earth where they will be collected by rectifying antennas and then converted back to electricity.
The process may prove to be easier than many thinks because all the necessary technology is already developed, the transmission of microwaves has been understood and implemented for a while now and finally, photovoltaics is more efficient now than ever before.
A more recent study, scientists take different approaches by developing solar panels that can collect energy from the night sky. The term solar panel is rather inaccurate here as the process doesn’t use photovoltaic cells but mainly operates based on temperature change. The scientists said:
They use a passive cooling mechanism known as radiative sky cooling to maintain the cold side of a thermoelectric generator several degrees below ambient. The surrounding air heats the warm side of the thermoelectric generator, with the ensuing temperature difference converted into usable electricity. We highlight pathways to improving performance from a demonstrated 25 mW/m2 to 0.5 W/m2. Finally, we demonstrate that even with the low-cost implementation demonstration here, enough power is produced to light a LED: generating light from the darkness.”
Ultimately, these strategies sound promising but the innovating solutions to making renewable energy are still at the early stages. It’s a race against a catastrophic climate change and we all hope it’s not too late to act and make renewable energy reliable on a large scale.