Advances in solar panel technology gives a boost to system efficiency

Falling prices, technology advances, and supportive policies are fueling rapid solar energy development throughout the globe.

  • Written/Contributed by
  • Sarah Lozanova, MBA | Renewable Energy and Clean Technology Consultant

Solar energy was the leading source of new power generation capacity in 2016. Falling prices, technology advances, and supportive policies are fueling rapid solar energy development throughout the globe.

Advancements in the efficiency of solar panels help to fuel this growth. Solar energy conversion efficiency improvements make it possible to generate more electricity in less space. This is especially important in urban areas where the limited roof and yard space can dictate the generation capacity of the system.

According to EnergySage, solar is responsible for generating 85 percent of a solar household’s total electricity in 2015. This achievement wouldn’t be possible without recent advances in solar system efficiency.

Likewise, advances in panel efficiency also boost the return on investment of the system. The more energy the array generates, the more value it provides. In addition, the price per watt of a solar system typically falls a bit with larger solar systems because solar systems have certain fixed costs.

YOUR BRAND. DELIVERED.

We assist in presenting your idea, service or product to the market.

We complement your marketing team – from conceiving the idea to creating the story to fueling the conversation around your brand.
SEE HOW THIS BENEFITS YOU

As the return on investment of solar systems increases, it fuels greater solar energy deployment. As production increases, the price of solar panels and equipment tends to fall, encouraging more solar deployment.

Let’s explore how advances in solar energy technology are boosting solar efficiency.

Solar panel efficiency climbs

There is a solar cell design that is being touted as having a 50 percent energy-conversion efficiency in laboratory tests. Although this and other new technologies are promising, they may not be widely installed on rooftops.

Unfortunately, the super-efficient solar cells typically require more costly materials which often makes them not cost effective for consumers.

Meanwhile, SolarCity is mass-producing solar panels with 22 percent efficiency, increasing the options of efficient solar panels available to consumers. Although 22 percent may not sound especially impressive, it is when considering efficiency in a historical context.

In addition to increases in efficiency, some panels are more shade tolerant than others, but all solar panels perform better when unshaded. Shade-tolerant panels are especially helpful for properties with trees or other obstructions, although panel location and orientation are still very important for maximizing system output.

Solar inverters mitigate the effects of shading

Inverters convert the direct current (DC) electricity from the solar panels to alternating current (AC) electricity that is used by household appliances and electronics. Choosing the right inverter for your roof can have an impact of 20 percent or more on overall solar system output.

String inverters convert power from multiple panels on the same string while microinverters convert energy from just one panel. If a system with a string inverter is shaded, it can experience the “Christmas tree effect,” where the output of the entire array is disproportionately affected.

For example, if shade from a chimney is falling on a small segment of one panel, it can have a dramatic and disproportionate effect on the total system output.

String inverters with Maximum Power Point (MPP) tracking can overcome this challenge with smart inverter technology that adjusts accordingly to maximize power output under all circumstances. Power optimizers allow MPP tracking for individual solar panels, boosting the energy harvest of the total array.

Microinverters allow each panel to operate individually, avoiding some of the performance issues that plague string inverters without MPP tracking capabilities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What to Read Next:

Batteries Plus Solar: Providing Homeowner Value

The residential “behind the meter” battery market is quickly gaining traction. Customers are becoming well informed via a mix of...

This week’s trending solar stories—October 20th, 2017

VOX Elon Musk and Richard Branson want to bring clean energy to Puerto Rico. It won’t be easy. Long before...

Create a website that looks like Amazon—with a few clicks

WordPress is a very powerful CMS with great functionality and extensibility that can allow you to do nearly anything you...

What’s powering the Blockchain economy—solar energy

Earlier this year, Bitcoin reported that "miners"—volunteers who notarize Bitcoin transactions—have begun investing heavily in solar as a way to...

Solar+Storage provides emergency power during Irma

Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded, devastated the Caribbean before hitting the coast of Florida. Irma...