How is solar panel technology improving?
Solar panels are being improved as more research and breakthroughs are found by manufacturers. While big revolutions in solar energy technology still aren’t ready for mainstream use, advances are being made in the efficiency of existing solar panel technology. We’ll explain how solar panels are improving currently, and what future innovations are on the horizon.
Understanding how solar panels work
Solar panels generate electricity from sunlight that hits the panels. The sunlight particles or photons will knock the electrons free from their atoms. This movement of these electrons is the electricity that solar panels capture and turn into a direct electrical current. One solar panel is made up of multiple components:
- Photovoltaic cells which are made of silicon. They are arranged in either monocrystalline or polycrystalline formations.
- An exterior glass casing.
- A layer of insulation and a protective back sheet.
- An anti-reflective coating.
These components all function together to create a solar panel that will generate energy for the next couple of decades. Our article on how solar panels work goes into greater detail about solar panels.
Improvements to efficiency
The solar panels made nowadays are considered much more efficient than those made years ago. This is because efficiency is a key metric for determining the quality of a solar panel. While the size and power output of solar panels is also important. Efficiency is where their performance is best compared. Manufacturers are constantly looking for technologies, components, and methods to improve the efficiency of their solar panels.
Improved Components and Materials
One approach to improving solar panels is to improve the individual components that make up a solar panel. This will include the cells inside the solar panels, and the additional components that make up an entire solar panel. Improved materials can improve the energy output and efficiency of solar panels.
- Silicon solar cells commonly use Monocrystalline and polycrystalline formations. With monocrystalline cells being the more efficient of the two. Structures such as Passivated emitter and rear contact (PERC), heterojunction with an intrinsic thin layer (HIT), and Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC) are now being chosen by manufacturers. These structures can eliminate shading losses and have higher conversion efficiency compared to standard structures.
- Improvements to the anti-reflective coatings, textures, and other materials that make up a panel can help the longevity of a solar panel. The longer a solar panel can stay in good condition, the more efficient it will remain in the long run and prevent defects and potential damage.
Improved designs and manufacturing methods
Improvements to the design and manufacturing methods can improve the efficiency of solar panels. Newer designs can improve on existing technologies to make the most of their energy-generating potential. These improvements can come in the form of:
- Thinner busbars are the thin silver wires that run vertically and horizontally throughout a solar panel. Their function is to help direct the flow of current from the cells to your home’s electrical system. Thinner busbars are less likely to reflect light away from the panels and cause shading that affects the light conversion of solar panels.
- Rear contacts avoid the issues of reflection and shading inside panels by placing the contacts on the non-exposed rear side of the panel. Rear contact designs can be seen on interdigitated back contact (IBC) solar cell structures in higher-end model solar panels. The panels appear as a solid color without any lines on the surface.
- Bi-facial solar panel designs allow solar panels to absorb light from both sides. They allow for light reflected off the ground or other surfaces and diffused light to be absorbed and converted into energy.
- Designs that utilize more of a panel’s surface through additional cells can also increase the power output and efficiency of a panel. The additional cells can be added to blank spots on panels or overlapped over each other.
Future solar panel technologies
There are also experimental technologies being developed and tested to improve solar panels. These technologies can offer new and improved components or alternatives to existing technologies. With the potential of higher energy production or cheaper production and assembly.
Thin-film solar panels
Thin film solar cells are an alternative solar panel technology that is much cheaper to manufacture and install. The panels themselves aren’t made of silicon, instead, they are made of Cadmium Telluride, Amorphous Silicon, Copper Indium Gallium Selenide, or Gallium Arsenide. While thin-film solar panels aren’t a relatively new technology per se. The improvements to the power output and efficiency of these panels are making them much more appealing. Especially with the cheaper costs and ease of installation.
Transparent Solar Panels
Photovoltaic glass is one of the new examples of experimental solar panel technologies that shows promise and potential. These are transparent solar panels that can generate electricity yet have the same appearance as glass. As sunlight passes through the panel, the organic salts in the panel absorb UV and infrared light, letting visual light pass through. These panels have the potential to replace regular glass in structures vehicles making them much more practical.
Start with solar energy today
If you are looking to start your transition to solar energy, we are here to help. Our website also has a free online estimate tool that generates a personalized report for you from a simplified questionnaire. That report will contain the potential savings you can net, and the cost of a solar energy system installed on your property. You can also contact us directly via phone at +1 (602) 363-8919 or via email at Scott@elitesolarenergy.org for more information regarding solar energy for your property.