Internet of Things (IoT) devices are high green technology tools that make it possible to communicate and interact over the internet. Today, there are millions of types of these devices designed for monitoring, transmitting, and securing our home. Most IoT devices today require electric power in the microwatt range in order to operate indoors. If you live in a large home, regularly replacing batteries for these devices can be a lot of work. To overcome this inconvenience and reduce battery waste, scientists are now building a new type of solar cells that can harvest energy from indoor lighting.
Indoor Solar Cells
Indoor solar cells are made using a copper-complex electrolyte. They are the most efficient power converters even under ambient lighting conditions. Unlike the traditional solar cells which are made from crystalline silicon, these new solar cells are made from dye-sensitized solar cells which are more efficient at converting artificial light to electric power.
How Do They Work?
Indoor solar cells are built so that they are flexible and have a light-absorbing layer. This allows them to be optimized for light of different wavelengths (including indoor light). They come in various types but the most successful are the organic, dye-sensitized, and perovskite. With the help of artificial intelligence, the cell system can give output according to the level of illumination. This helps reduce energy consumption and battery waste.
The problem with the conventional solar cells is their poor response to light levels. Since they are “solar cells”, they are only effective under direct sunlight which has a light density of 30,000 to 100,00 lux. Our home’s typical lighting only ranges from around 50 to 150 lux. At these levels, solar cells can’t produce any form of usable power.
Excellent Power-Conversion Capabilities
In the study conducted by researchers from Germany, Italy, and Columbia, the new solar cells delivered power-conversion capabilities of more than 20 percent under 200 lux, which is the typical lighting in most homes. They can make indoor efficiency three times better than the crystalline silicon. The strongest benefit of these kinds of solar cells is their low price and flexibility.
The technology is still not perfect though. Perovskite solar cells are found to be more fragile than the traditional solar cells. They can degrade when exposed to moisture, too much heat, and ultraviolet light. These drawbacks make them impossible to be used outside the house.
Organic Solar Cells
In a similar study in China, researchers developed a new type of solar cells through a combination of donor and acceptor materials. They used it as the active layer for the “organic solar cell’. This layer absorbs wavelengths of light around it in almost all kinds of indoor environments.
They created two variants. One which has an area of 1cm2 and the other 4cm2. When the smaller one was exposed to ambient light at 1000 lux, they found that it converted as much as 26.1% of energy to electricity. The larger one maintained an energy efficiency of 23 percent. This research is very promising knowing how much we would probably rely on IoT devices in the near future.
Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
European scientists are developing a dye-sensitized solar cell that is based on a copper-complex electrolyte. It is basically made of organic dye which though a chemical process becomes crystals which are sensitive to light in the red, green, or infrared regions of the spectrum.
They tested it on a thin square of conductive glass and found promising results. It converted as much as 34 percent of ambient light into electricity and around 31.4 percent from fluorescent lamps. These new solar cells have amazing advantages indoors as they can maintain high voltages in low-light settings. According to the researchers, it could revolutionize indoor digital sensing for offices, greenhouses, and other smart devices.
The Internet of things has been rapidly growing for the past few years so much that experts estimated that by the year 2025, there will be around 75 billion IoT devices around the world. The battery required to cover the energy needs of these products would be too large. There are also significant negative effects on the environment from the disposal of these batteries.
If we want to help save the planet, we must find a way to conserve batteries and seek alternatives. Indoor light harvesting through these solar cells can prove to be the solution. If implemented, powering our smart homes in the near future will no longer be a problem. In fact, these new indoor solar cells could be the future power source for almost all devices. Its brilliant combination of high-efficiency and low cost makes it important for IoT sustainability.
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Building Solar Energy Monitoring Systems Using IoT – floLIVE
The global Energy market is going through substantial change, with renewable energy at an all-time high, and growing fast. While Asia-Pacific continues to dominate, interest in solar energy is growing all over the world.
According to Mordor Research, “the renewable energy installed capacity reached 2713.60 GW in 2019, and it is anticipated to reach approximately 4391.18 GW by 2026, at a CAGR of 7.13% during 2021-2026.” Below you can see how renewable energy is being adopted globally, proving that worldwide, solar power and sustainable energy solutions are a seriously hot topic. (No pun intended.) To understand more about how IoT is facilitating this growth, keep reading!
Solar Energy IoT and Smart Home Monitoring Systems
Integrating solar energy into smart homes is becoming more popular as solar panels continue to reduce in cost, but this can only happen if there are solar energy monitoring systems in place – and that’s where IoT comes in.
IoT can allow consumers and businesses to monitor the use of solar energy on a much more granular level, giving a better understanding over which appliances and services are the most energy efficient, how much power is being used, as well as insight into when and how.
For enterprises looking to facilitate and maintain solar panels and renewable energy, IoT can allow for remote maintenance, and even predictive analysis that drives down costs even further. Deep visibility can allow companies to decrease the stress on their equipment, better balancing energy loads, and alerting ahead of time to issues such as overheating.
Large-scale Solar Operations Need Remote Monitoring to Suit
While residential application is a large part of the drive to renewable energy, many energy companies are looking into increasing their solar farms, and managing power consumption and renewable energy on a much larger scale. Solar power production for energy companies can be improved exponentially with the help of IoT monitoring. As sensors become more affordable, and connectivity solutions evolve, enterprises could see huge benefits from IoT, without much risk to speak of. Here are four examples:
Maintenance: Traditionally, workers on a solar farm would need to locate and check every panel regularly to ensure that they are working as expected. These inspections can become a thing of the past when all your solar panels are connected to a centralized data source. In fact, when there’s a problem, your asset management system can let you know with a simple alert, freeing up your staff for higher value tasks. With predictive intelligence, you’re less likely to suffer as a result of outages or power issues.
Performance: By amalgamating the data that comes from your panels, grid managers will be able to spot anomalies such as solar panels or units that are under-performing, and even the reasons why, such as temperature, dust, or extreme weather conditions. Managers can then make smart changes, such as moving units, increasing the volume of cleaning, or making changes in insulation or alignment.
Security: Especially when solar panels and solar farms are in rural areas (often the case when it comes to renewable energy sources), it’s essential to have a monitoring system to keep them secure from physical theft, or even vandalism. With IoT sensors, you can establish rules for theft-related alerts, such as movement around the panels, or if a panel has been removed from the outer structure of the grid.
Forecasting: With business intelligence tools integrated into your IoT monitoring system, analytics can help you see true business growth at a much faster rate. For example, anticipate how much energy will be needed on a specific day, streamlining how much energy you use and conserve, respectively. This can improve the balance of supply and demand in the smart grid itself, saving serious zeroes off your bottom line.
When it Comes to Solar Energy… Not all IoT Technologies Are Created Equal
IoT monitoring systems have a few key needs, but top of the list is connectivity. However, this is not just any connectivity. As solar panels are often in rural areas, and sensors can often be manufactured in one location and sent to another where the energy grid is based, availability is a key issue to address first and foremost. There could be many thousands of panels or units on a large-scale solar farm, so price is also an important point to consider. One of the main contributors to cost is battery life, as the battery is often more expensive to replace than it would be to deploy new devices and sensors altogether.
LPWAN solutions and cellular IoT connectivity are a great fit for IoT monitoring in the Energy sector, with the packet size and data rates to meet these unique needs. floLIVE offers a one-of-a-kind solution in the form of software-defined connectivity, providing global connectivity through globally distributed core networks deployed in different regions. Each of these hosts a local IMSI, and they are centrally managed over the cloud. This unique approach has formed the world’s largest IMSI Library. In practice, this means that sensors can be manufactured anywhere, and IoT devices simply connect locally when they are turned on. This not only eliminates data privacy and security issues, but it also reduces the amount of time the IoT device has to be awake each time it transmits information, extending the lifespan of its battery overall.
Solar Power is the Future – and IoT Technology is Making That Happen
“The IEA expects solar energy to play the biggest role in jumpstarting fresh growth in global renewable energy because falling costs are already below retail electricity prices in most countries. The cost of solar power is expected to decline by a further 15% to 35% by 2024, spurring further growth over the second half of the decade.”
The world is ready for solar energy, but without an IoT solution in place for remote monitoring, the benefits are going to be limited for today’s enterprises.
Ready to discuss your roadmap for sustainable energy augmented by IoT technology? Let’s talk.
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