How efficient are today's solar panels?

Millie HennickAugust 30, 20183540

How efficient are today’s solar panels?

Solar is a relatively new way to produce energy so it’s not a surprise that the first solar devices were rather inefficient. Technological advances are a constant in solar energy and efficiency is improving constantly. There are a number of promising developments in solar technology that will make solar progressively more efficient. The outcome determines solar panel efficiency and is measured in percentages. If the sun produces 100% energy, solar systems are usually able to process 14-23% of that sunpower into usable energy. To gauge solar panel efficiency, panels are tested at Standard Test Conditions (STC). STC specifies a temperature of 25°C and an irradiance of 1,000 W/m2. This is the equivalent of a sunny day with the light hitting a sun-facing 37°-tilted surface. Under these test conditions, a solar panel efficiency of 15% with a 1 m2 surface area would produce 150 Watts. Solar panels are extensively tested in extreme conditions since today’s weather is more volatile than ever before due to the scourge of global warming, the very thing they are trying to remedy.

Extensive trials of solar panels under extreme conditions

When investing in a solar system, we all want the most efficient and effective solar panels available. There are major advantages to having the right kind of solar panels installed for your home. In order to guarantee the quality of a solar panel, they are extensively tested under extreme conditions. Wind is one the most predicted but still unexpected causes of solar cell damage. Many solar panel manufacturers conduct extensive wind tunnel testing to decrease potential damage.

Damp heat testing

Damp heat testing is carried out to test the durability of solar panels in, especially humid conditions. Humidity can lead to corrosion and to module connection failure and an overall decrease in solar panel efficiency. 

Insulation resistance

Insulation resistance is measured by material strength. In weak materials, current leakage can happen on the edges of the solar panel rendering the unit less efficient. 

Thermal Cycling

Thermal cycling can sometimes cause solar panel components to become less efficient. These components include solar cells, interconnections, solder bonds and module connections.  It is important to consider all the factors that could influence solar panel efficiency. Most importantly, it is necessary to maximize output from the outset with efficient, quality solar panels.

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