The sense of urgency surrounding the need to move away from fossil fuels means that a rapidly rising number of us are going to be looking at renewable energy alternatives such as solar panels as a way of generating the power needed for our homes.
There is little doubt that solar panel technology has evolved almost beyond recognition since the idea first became commercially viable. The question is how has efficiency improved and what does solar energy offer as an energy solution?
The last five years
The bottom line is that solar cell technology does not have the ability to transform all of the solar energy into usable energy. However, its efficiency in improving the percentage of energy absorbed by the photovoltaic cells and converted into electricity has increased greatly as a result of technological advancements.
Solar cell technology has improved to such an extent in the last five years that solar cell efficiency has risen by about 20%, on average.
It should be remembered that the quality of the structure and materials used to make the panels will usually prove to be an accurate guide to how efficient they will be.
Paying the right price for top quality solar panels should be rewarded with a greater energy and efficiency performance compared. The old adage of saying you get what you pay for may well be true when it comes to solar panel efficiency.
Efficiency has increased, in general over the last five years, but the level of that efficiency is often determined by price and quality.
The technology behind recent improvements
The thickness of the cells used in the panels has remained fairly static for some time and is usually about 180 microns. Efforts to manufacture thinner wafers were often thwarted by problems with cracking during the manufacturing process.
What has proved to be a game-changer in this area of manufacture is the introduction of the diamond wire saw. This has helped to fix the problem of cracking and reduce production costs.
Another cost-cutting innovation has been the ability to slice cells into two. This technology has improved cost efficiency by adding increased solar capacity of between five and seven watts per panel.
This simple but innovative technological improvement results in cutting each panel’s electrical current creating measurable gains in efficiency because the resistive losses are in direct proportion to the size of the current.
Glass efficiency has also improved
Another significant improvement has been in relation to the conversion energy of the cell itself.
Manufacturers of solar panels have become able to increase the efficiency of how each panel converts photons into electrons every year for the last decade. What that means is the efficiency of each crystal silicon solar panel allows you to enjoy more wattage from the same rectangle of glass than before.
Solar panel technology has definitely become more efficient over time and as the industry continues to evolve it is going to get even greater in the future.
That means the future is bright for this much-needed energy solution.