In the battle to cut carbon emissions, we have one hand tied behind our backs because renewables are intermittent. Wind turbines cannot provide power on a still day, and solar panels don’t work when the sun isn’t shining. For this reason, a continuous baseload of power from coal, gas or nuclear power stations has to be maintained.
The amount of baseload required to keep the lights on may be about to fall according to Chinese scientists in a paper in Angewandte Chemie. The team from the Ocean University of China (Qingdao) and Yunnan Normal University (Kunming, China) discovered that by adding a thin layer of graphene to the surface of a solar panel, they could generate electricity from raindrops landing on the panel.
Although still at an experimental stage, if the panels are able to generate sufficient energy, they would allow solar panels to keep working on both rainy days and rainy nights – lowering the baseload needed at such times.