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"How we can turn the cold of outer space into a renewable resource"

From a TED Talk.  Although maybe not needed as much in northern climates, every little bit could help and this project could be a large scale pilot program:

  • "... my colleagues at Stanford and I have shown that you could actually maintain something more than 42 degrees Celsius below the air temperature with better engineering. "
  • "We can use the cold darkness of space to improve the efficiency of every energy-related process here on earth.
    One such process I'd like to highlight are solar cells. They heat up under the sun and become less efficient the hotter they are. In 2015, we showed that with deliberate kinds of microstructures on top of a solar cell, we could take better advantage of this cooling effect to maintain a solar cell passively at a lower temperature. This allows the cell to operate more efficiently."
  • "Perhaps we could even directly generate power with this cold. There's a large temperature difference between us here on earth and the cold of space. That difference, at least conceptually, could be used to drive something called a heat engine to generate electricity. Could we then make a nighttime power-generation device that generates useful amounts of electricity when solar cells don't work? Could we generate light from darkness?"

 

I am sure it is possible but you may not want to go overboard. Imagine an acre of flat rock, concrete,  asphalt, or crystalline solar panels. The sun hits this all day raising the temperature to 150 degrees. At dusk you have a huge venetian blind of a special fabric mesh and roll this over the acre. You would need a structural frame to hold it up 10' from the surface, and to prevent it from blowing, tearing, etc.

The special fabric would have the properties of creating electricity from infra red radiation, (because that is what comes off the surface at night). You would measure some current flow and voltage but it may be a very small amount. The area would also be warmer because you have introduced a weak blanket of insulation over the area. It would be orders of magnitude a greater insulator than carbon dioxide. It would be an order of magnitude weaker than natural cloud cover. If you did this over millions of acres you would notice a local climate change, similar to living near a big lake.

The technology hurdles to develop the fabric are huge. It may have to be a solid panel?

Final guess. I don't want to discourage great science but this could be what we are up against. A $100 panel may produce 10 amps during the day. A 10 million dollar panel may produce 1 milliamp at night?

...more than 42 degrees Celsius below the air temperature with better engineering>>with deliberate kinds of microstructures on top of a solar cell, we could take better advantage of this cooling effect to maintain a solar cell passively at a lower temperature>>Perhaps we could even directly generate power with this cold...

That just goes right off the rails.

  • A solar panel that harvests heat in the day can radiant heat at night into the black sky.
  • (Somehow) cooling PV cells makes them more efficient
  • A massive Stirling engine kludged onto your magic [PV] rocks.