Solar panels can technically work under intensive artificial light at night, including high-intensity lamps or LEDs.
However, this method presents several challenges, including efficiency loss due to different light spectrum and heat generated, high energy consumption leading to a net loss in energy, economic infeasibility, and environmental concerns.
With modern panels' efficiency only reaching 20-23%, the conversion of artificial light to electricity via solar is not economical.
The reality of this concept is constrained by physics, economics, and engineering, making it an unlikely solution with current technology.
Could artificial light be the source of solar panels?
How good would this be if artificial lights could power solar panels so that we can get even more energy at night? Is this possible?
Solar panels, or photovoltaic (PV) panels, consist of many individual photovoltaic cells made primarily of silicon. These cells are semiconductor devices that create electricity through the photovoltaic effect. Understanding how solar panels work is essential to understanding how artificial light affects them. Photovoltaic (PV) cells, primarily made of silicon, are the building blocks of solar panels.
Through the photovoltaic effect, these cells produce a direct current (DC) electrical flow when exposed to sunshine. The intensity and spectrum of the incident light are two variables that affect how much energy is generated. If the light source provides photons with enough energy, the PV cells will produce electricity.
While not all light can activate a solar panel, a range of wavelengths of light within solar irradiation can start electrons. These electrons then create power within a solar panel. The amount of energy depends on the spectrum and the intensity of that light. This means that any intensive light source, not just the sun, could potentially be used to generate power within a solar panel.
A strong light will need a lot of energy
To use intensive light at night, you would need to have a strong enough artificial light source to generate the necessary photon movement in a solar panel. This source could be something like high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, LEDs, or laser lights. However, there are several considerations that make this possibility less appealing.
The efficiency of a solar panel depends on the wavelength of light it receives. Sunlight has a broad spectrum, including visible light, UV, and infrared. Artificial light sources may have a different spectrum, which might not align with the solar panel’s peak efficiency, leading to a decrease in overall effectiveness.
Intensive artificial light sources can generate some heat, which can actually decrease the performance of solar panels. Photovoltaic cells become less efficient as they heat up.
Energy consumption calculation
Using artificial light to power solar panels would consume more energy than the panels would produce, creating a net loss in energy.
This is due to the second law of thermodynamics and overall energy conversion inefficiencies in both the light source and the solar panels. Modern panels in many cases only have an efficiency of 20 to 23%. This means from the light energy hitting the panel, only up to 23% is coming back in electricity generation.
This is okay if the light source is the sun, but in the case of artificial light, we would actually lose more than 75% of the power we need in the 1st place to generate the intensive light.
The cost of generating intensive artificial light might outweigh the benefits of the electricity generated by the solar panels. This would make the setup economically not viable.
The conversion losses alone make the conversion of artificial light to electricity via solar not economical.
Don’t rely on artificial light to power solar panels
The key point that makes it all theoretical is that solar panels will not be able to generate more electricity than what the light bulb uses to operate. Therefore, powering panels with artificial light would not be beneficial.
Technically, solar panels can work under intensive artificial light at night. However, due to the inefficiencies, heat problems, energy consumption, economic considerations, and environmental impact, it’s generally not a practical solution for generating power.
The idea of using artificial light to generate power with solar panels might sound appealing, but the reality involves a complex interplay of physics, economics, and engineering that makes it an unlikely solution with our current technology.
Efforts are generally directed towards improving the efficiency of solar panels under natural sunlight and developing energy storage solutions to provide power when the sun is not shining.