How Solar Panels Have Improved Over the Years
Using solar energy as a main source of electricity is a work in progress. There are still limitations to using solar energy as a power source but the technological advancements in solar energy has promise for its future.
Improved Solar Panel Efficiency
Solar cells were first discovered and invented in the late 19th century. But these cells were rather primitive by today’s standards, and only boasted 1% efficiency. Solar cells in the market today have an efficiency varying between 10% and 20% while some of the highest quality solar panels can have efficiency as high as 25%. This means that even the best solar cells cannot convert 75% of the light they receive into usable electricity. These super high-efficiency cells, however, are not yet feasible for rooftop panels as they are manufactured using expensive material. Scientists and engineers are continuously working to discover new ways of boosting solar cell efficiency.
Reduced Solar Panel Cost
As with all brand new technologies, solar power technology has become more affordable over these years. Still, converting to solar energy for homes still requires a significant initial investment and solar power generators are also generally more expensive than conventional fuel-powered generators.
The price of solar energy is measured in watts. When solar panels were still very inefficient, the price per watt was quite steep but as solar panels became more efficient, their price dropped. Yet the good thing is that there have been major price drops for solar technology in the last ten years which is further supported by government subsidies and tax reductions for homes using solar energy.
The price drops are partially made possible because of the increased researched into solar energy that have led to more affordable manufacturing of solar cells. Also, as more companies are investing in solar energy there is also more competition – more competition often leads to a drop in market price as the companies compete for greater market share.
Modern solar panels use different materials
Solar panels from ten years ago used silicon. But a new alternative to traditional silicon panels is cadmium telluride cells or CdTe. CdTe cells aren’t a new invention and were first discovered and created back in the mid-1950s. But CdTe cells were still limited by a maximum output level known as the “one-volt limit.” At the time, it meant that CdTe cells couldn’t produce more than 900 millivolts of electricity in direct sunlight. But researchers managed to break through the CdTe 900 millivolt ceiling. Scientists were able to achieve efficiency ratings for more than 22% with CdTe cells, and now CdTe panels are projected to be the next big leap forward for solar energy.
To sum up, solar energy has a lot of potential but there are still improvements that can be made in affordability and efficiency. Fortunately, solar technology is becoming increasingly popular with more investments continuing in is research and development.