Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Conversion Efficient Solar Panels: Practical Information for Beginners


The conversion efficiency of solar panels is the ratio of sunlight striking a solar panel surface (input) and the electricity it produces (output). The more electricity is produced from sunlight, the more efficient the panel.

Solar panel efficiency is very important because this will determine from the very start adequate electricity supply, the size and cost of your home solar system. As of now the efficiency of solar cells stands at around 15 to 17%.

Primer on solar panels

A solar panel or solar module is a collection of solar cells that is used to generate and provide electricity in homes and other establishments. The cells should provide a high solar conversion ratio or produce more electricity from sunlight to have a high conversion efficiency rating.

The number of panels needed depends on the amount of electricity you want to produce. Different materials display different efficiencies and have different costs.

Here are the different solar cells used in the manufacture of solar panels:

1. The first generation cells consist of the traditional single-junction, silicon-wafer, photovoltaic solar cell. They have the highest conversion efficiency, averaging from 15-20% in most cases. Although these are the most studied and popular cells in the market, their main obstacle have been production costs.

2. Second generation cells utilize thin film technology, involving amorphous or micromorphous silicon, or ignoring silicon altogether. First Solar, the largest thin film manufacturer in the nation, uses cadmium telluride based cells. These solar cells are smaller and much cheaper than their first generation counterparts.

Unfortunately they are also much less efficient, with conversion rate at the level of around 10% or less. Because the panels are so thin, they can be produced very fast and relatively cheap. This compensates for lower efficiency. These solar cells will likely surpass the first generation panels in the next few years.

3. Third generation solar cells are believed to be the most ideal for the solar industry. Unfortunately they are still in the research phase. The concept is to produce a low-cost, high-efficiency solar cell, the epitome of solar technologies.

Despite being on research phase, results have been very promising. Organic solar cells promise cheap, clean, and abundant production resources. Nanosolar cells promise strong yet tiny cells that could thrive in paint or embedded in a window or anywhere.

At present, the first generation cells have the highest conversion rates, while the second generation has the edge on production costs (with a decent conversion rate). The third generation is being designed to beat out the first two, and it looks like it will eventually succeed.

Significant gains in conversion efficiency

1. Scientists from Spectrolab, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing, have published their research on the fabrication of solar cells that surpass the 40% efficiency milestone—the highest efficiency achieved for any photovoltaic device. The research was funded partly by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and will play a significant role in the government’s Solar America Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional electricity generation by 2015.

2. SANYO has broken its own record for the world's highest energy conversion efficiency in practical size crystalline silicon-type solar cells. The company achieved the breakthrough by demonstrating an efficiency of 22% (beating a previous record of 21.8%) at a research level.

3. Recently, scientists broke a record by producing dye-sensitized solar cells with a 10% conversion efficiency. This is an exciting development, and we could begin seeing commercial adaptation within 5-10 years.

4. The top three makers in the country, Suntech, Yingli and JA Solar, have boosted the efficiency of monocrystalline silicon variants to more than 18.5 percent. Efforts are under way to raise this further to catch up with leading manufacturer SunPower. The latter has achieved a record 24.2 percent conversion ratio of solar cells in recent months.

Scientists and researchers in the solar industry are working real hard to upgrade the solar cells, in the hopes of developing the solar industry’s dream: a low-cost, high-efficiency solar panel. Only through this can we make a dent in the strong hold of fossil energy supplying the world.

We invite you to visit our Informative Solar Article page for more practical tips, simplified application guide and established solar benefits.

Author’s Box
Jacinto Demonteverde, Jr., the owner, is a strong advocate of solar power adoption. He writes practical articles to keep established and prospective solar users well informed. Visit him at: http://www.justsolarhome.blogspot.com. You are welcome to republish or reprint this article free of charge provided the content remains unchanged including the Author’s Box. No permission is needed

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