Renewable energy's dependence on weather is one of the factors that's kept it from replacing oil and coal and nuclear and other nasty evil polluting power sources for day-to-day use. In a stroke of genius, scientists in the U.K. have stuck a solar powered generator onto a rain and wind-powered generator to make an all-weather power harvester.
What a group of scientists at the Institute for Materials Research and Innovation at the University of Bolton have come up with is an energy harvester that's designed to look sort of like a pine cone, with a bunch of flat needles that stick out from a central core. Each one of those needles is a piezoelectric ribbon covered with a solar panel. This hybrid approach means that the harvester can generate electricity when it's sunny out, but it can also harvest electricity from movement, such as when the needles are moved by wind or deflected by raindrops falling on them.
This same sort of hybrid harvester could be made even smaller, to the point where it's indistinguishable from the nylon fibers that make up clothing. That way, whether you're out in the sun or the rain, as long as you're wearing clothes you're always generating electricity to charge up your gadgets. And if it's sunny and windy and rainy all at once? Then it's time to turn on five toasters for no reason and party!
Via New Scientist