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Climate and Environment

Next Level Solar Panels Can Generate Electricity at Night

Bird's eye view of an array of solar panels in a school parking lot.
Solar panels in a parking lot outside South East High School, an L.A. Unified School District campus in South Gate.
(Courtesy of LAUSD)
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A team of engineers at Stanford University has developed a solar cell that can generate some electricity at night.

The research comes at a moment when the number of solar jobsand residential installations are rising.

While standard solar panels can provide electricity during the day, this device can serve as a "continuous renewable power source for both day- and nighttime," according to the study published this week in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

The device incorporates a thermoelectric generator, which can pull electricity from the small difference in temperature between the ambient air and the solar cell itself.

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"Our approach can provide nighttime standby lighting and power in off-grid and mini-grid applications, where [solar] cell installations are gaining popularity," the study said.

Mini-grid applications refer to independent electricity networks. These can be used when a population is too small or too far away to extend the grid.

It wasn't until recently that solar energy declined in price and became much more affordable. Some companies have bought into the program, and California has even incentivized the shift to solar.

As the war continues in Ukraine, Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of Solar Energy Industries Association, the national trade association for the solar industry, told CNBC that investing in energy alternatives is important.

"In the face of global supply uncertainty, we must ramp up clean energy production and eliminate our reliance on hostile nations for our energy needs," Hopper said.

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