With an upcoming data tsunami expected to absorb up to 20 percent of global electricity by 2025, according to some experts, data center energy sources are a hot talking point \u2014 the photovoltaic solar panel being one of the hottest and most viable fossil fuel alternatives.\nHowever, there\u2019s an obvious problem with the solar panel as electricity source: When sunlight drops off on cloudy or rainy days, so does power output.\nChinese scientists, though, think they have a solution, and that\u2019s to develop a generalized hybrid panel that also harnesses the power of rain. It compensates for lack of sun on iffy days and at night.\n\n\u201cSolar cells, as promising devices for converting light into electricity, have a dramatically reduced performance on rainy days,\u201d say the scientists from Soochow University in an abstract of their paper published in the American Chemical Society\u2019s ACS Nano. So they think they can \u201crealize power generation from both sunlight and raindrops.\u201d\nThey\u2019re using a triboelectric nano-generator, also known as a TENG generator. That\u2019s a polymer-constructed device that captures an electrical charge from mechanical energy, or friction. As the raindrops fall on the surface and then roll off, power is created from the compression and force.\nBy making the TENG see-through and combining it with a conventional silicon solar panel, solar energy gets to the photovoltaic panel, too, and thus power is created from both rain and sunlight.\nImportantly, and the reason why this invention is different from previous ideas in the same vein, the group has figured out how to use a mutual electrode to join the two polymer elements, rather than wire, explains\u00a0Lisa Zyga at Phys.org. She communicated with paper co-author Dr. Zhen Wen at Soochow University.\nRemoving the wire makes the hybrid generator efficient and allows for a waterproof barrier so that bad weather doesn\u2019t permeate the silicon used in the solar panel.\nThe rain and solar panel is \u201can efficient approach to collect energy from the environment in different weather conditions,\u201d the abstract says.\nThere is still one challenge to deal with: \u201cThe minor drawback that the solar cell and TENG cannot function simultaneously,\u201d Zyga writes. It won\u2019t work in a rare sunshower, Zyga says.\nAn option for data centers in bad weather locations\nInterestingly, and while this TENG-hybrid solar project is clearly in its conceptual, development stages, there is an argument in favor of locating data centers in areas with poor weather \u2014 it\u2019s cheaper to cool the buildings. And it is indeed a major reason why the world\u2019s largest data center is being built in the arctic circle at Ballangen in Norway. Facebook, too, has a data center in Lule\u00e5, Sweden, which is in the arctic circle region.\nSo, perhaps a for-cloudy weather solar panel, or limited sunlight solar panel (arctic areas can have limited sunlight anyway in winter), will have legs \u2014\u00a0not just in notoriously gloomy weather industrialized locales such as the United Kingdom, where alternative fuels such as wind power are gaining traction, but also in the hinterlands. Plus solar panels need less maintenance than wind power because there are fewer moving parts.