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Last updated: 22 March 2018

Solar Panels: An Efficient Energy Source

Learn What Solar Efficiency Is and Why It Is Important

Are you interested in investing in solar panels but concerned about their efficiency? This article presents some solar power facts to help you understand what solar efficiency is, and why you need to know about it. To be blunt, not the solar panels which are most efficient, but the ones offering the best value for the money are the ones you want to be looking for.

What Is Solar Efficiency?

Solar efficiency refers to the amount of sunlight that can be converted into usable electricity. Photovoltaic solar efficiency can be measured either by looking at solar cell- or at solar panel efficiency. A solar panel in simple terms consists of a group of solar cells that are grouped next to each other on top of a backsheet and covered by glass. Solar cell efficiency refers to the amount of light that a single cell can convert into electricity and solar panel efficiency is the amount of light that one entire module can convert into electricity.

You should pay attention to solar panel efficiency, since it indicates how much electricity your solar system will actually generate. It is important to know that solar panel efficiency is generally lower than solar cell efficiency, since the glass covering the panel reflects some sunlight. Furthermore, spacing between cells means wasted efficiency as well.

Read more: How Do Solar Panels Work?

Why Is Solar Panel Efficiency Important?

As you may guess, the greater the solar panel’s efficiency, the better the results. Highly efficient solar panels will maximize your overall return on investment, since you will generate the maximum possible amount of electricity with the minimum number of panels. Consequently, you will need less rooftop space and less time and money to install them.

You might have already come to the conclusion that a highly efficient solar panel will be more expensive than one that is not as efficient. A typical commercial solar module has an efficiency of 16,5%, which means that around one-sixth of the sunlight hitting the module will actually be converted into electricity.

The challenge for solar panel producers is to maximize solar panel efficiency while holding down the costs of production. Panels must be reasonably priced so that people can afford them, so although 16-20% of efficiency doesn't sound very tempting, it is still enough for household purposes. In fact, people that have this kind of solar panels produce more electricity than they need, so they can sell the surplus back to the grid. So, after all, the number is pretty good! Getting the (so far) most efficient solar panel, like those used by NASA would be crazily expensive and unnecessary for household purposes.

So… Solar panel efficiency is an important factor to consider and hopefully, improvements in technology will lead to more efficient solar panels. However, when taking the decision of buying solar panels for domestic purposes, solar efficiency should not be the only issue to consider. You should get in touch with suppliers that have a good reputation for their service, and whose offer is attractive in the sense of value-for-the-money. As an idea, you can visit GreenMatch.co.uk to request a quote (for free) and you will get offers from different suppliers close to you.

NEWS: More Efficient, Durable Solar Cells are Possible Thanks to Glass

Newspaper

In the process of converting sunlight into electricity, a surprising amount of energy is lost through solar cells overheating. This not only impacts on the solar panel’s efficiency but also reduces its lifespan. As cells heat up, efficiency goes down about half a per cent for every one degree increase in temperature.

A cost-effective cooling mechanism hasn’t yet been discovered since ventilation or liquid coolants are still very expensive and not worth it. The good news is that a group of researchers from Stanford University in California has recently discovered that if a layer of silica glass, embedded with tiny cone and pyramid structures, is placed on top top of silicon solar cells, the operating temperature of the cells dropped considerably. These silica glass and pyramid structures redirect unwanted heat to the atmosphere, eliminating unwanted infrared radiation and leading to solar cells staying cool, hence more efficient.

Although it seems that we will have to wait for many years to have this technology available for our roofs and some say the model is unfeasible in the real world, we will be optimistic and hope that this discovery will lead to developing solar panels that are more effective but not a lot more expensive, thus turning solar power into a more popular and tempting alternative for domestic use.

Read more: The Future of Solar Energy