Solar-Powered Sensors: How IoT Is Getting a Green Upgrade

Shannon Flynn -
Solar Power, sensors
Illustration: © IoT For All

Internet of Things has a major impact on almost every industry, enabling more intelligent security systems, operational monitoring technology, and even smart retail operations.

For environmentally-conscious organizations, however, new IoT technology can appear to have some significant drawbacks. Thankfully, there are ways to make this tech greener and still provide the needed power. Solar-powered sensors are making a name for themselves, and for a good reason. Here’s how they are making a difference in IoT and all its implications.

IoT Isn’t Necessarily Sustainable

As an organization’s IoT fleet grows, keeping smart sensors powered can quickly become a logistical challenge and issue of sustainability. While most IoT sensors don’t draw a lot of energy, and many reduce the power needed to light a room or heat a building, they still need some fuel to function. This is especially true when relying on fossil fuel-fired power plants.

IoT-ready solar power systems enable organizations to make their IoT fleets much greener. New solar and IoT technology makes it possible to operate without increasing a business’s carbon footprint.

This technology will be essential for organizations that are already using IoT devices to reduce their environmental impact.

IoT-ready solar power systems make fleets greener and enable organizations to decrease their carbon footprint.

Using Solar Energy to Power IoT Fleets

Several organizations have started to use new solar technology to power their IoT fleets. It’s similar to using any other energy source, like a gas-powered generator, with the added benefit of being much more sustainable.

A combination of solar technology like a rooftop panel array and storage solution can ensure the continuous delivery of power to a fleet of IoT sensors. This approach can be a great way for factories or other large, centralized industrial buildings to reduce their carbon footprint without the risk of intermittent power to essential IoT sensors.

Existing IoT infrastructure can also support smart devices that track and optimize the function of newly installed solar panel arrays. New panels can be expensive, and businesses that need to power many IoT devices may need to invest in a significant array.

Fortunately, most organizations should take advantage of the wide range of public and private incentives available for solar technology. These credits and subsidies can help organizations convince stakeholders and decision-makers that solar power is a worthwhile investment.

The long-term benefits of a solar panel array can also help. For nonprofits, expenses like utility bills can be offset by the energy generated using solar arrays that power IoT devices.

The Rise of Miniature Solar Panels for IoT Devices

Some businesses are also developing new miniature solar panels for IoT devices. These panels may generate minimal amounts of power — as little as 1 watt, depending on solar panel size. As a result, they are small, lightweight, and cost-effective, making it practical to bundle them with many sensors.

This approach is most effective when sensors are outdoors or distributed over a large area. It may be impractical or impossible to wire them all to a power source.

Individual solar panels can provide consistent power even when a connection to the local grid isn’t feasible. Combined with a battery, they can ensure each sensor has an uninterrupted power source that generates a minimal amount of carbon emissions.

Because most modern IoT sensors draw little power while in use, even smaller batteries can store enough energy to keep devices powered for days or weeks. One new solar-powered IoT asset tracker can operate for a month in darkness on a full charge.

This long-lasting energy storage means that even if solar panels become less efficient over time — due to factors like the natural accumulation of dust — they should still provide enough power to keep an attached IoT device operational.

How New Solar Technology Is Making IoT Greener

IoT devices are often a great tool for making businesses more sustainable. However, they aren’t always as green as they could be.

The development of new solar technology for IoT devices will expand the range of sustainable options available to organizations in need of smart sensors. Both centralized solar arrays and individual panels installed with new IoT devices can lessen the carbon footprint of each new sensor.

Author
Shannon Flynn - Technology Writer, ReHack

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Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...