Why Are Solar Panels So Inefficient?

Tim Hamlin
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Is The Size Important?

The solar panels that power houses are huge, close to a size of a basketball court and it would take acres of these panels to power a decent sized household. And that is if the solar panels could take advantage of the space. However, it is the efficiency of the panels that governs the size.

The efficiency of the panels is measured by the panels’ generation of power per unit area. Just as the larger the panels are, the more they can generate, but the same goes for the efficiency of the panels. For example, a solar panel that is 100 square feet will be able to generate more power in an hour than a solar panel covering 50 square feet.

The Cost Behind The Solar Panels

While solar panels do produce clean energy that helps to reduce the electricity you're using from the grid, the issue many people have with them is when it comes to cost. At home, solar panels are certainly a great investment if you are someone who stays in one home for the long-term. If you have a rental property, installing solar panels can be tricky, as you're not sure if the person renting your home will keep them in good condition. Fortunately, costs have fallen significantly, even in the last year.

Limited Efficiency

Since the dawn of the industrial age, we have been dependent on electricity generated from fossil fuels, mainly oil and coal. In hindsight, it was a very shortsighted move, as our current reliance on fossil fuels is one of the largest contributors to global warming and localized air pollution. We now know that this reliance on fossil fuels transcends a global problem and is one that must be addressed head on.

Many people have decided to change their current lifestyle and energy consumption patterns in order to lighten their footprint and show their commitment to lowering their fossil fuel consumption. However, these efforts seem to be in vain if we look at solar power as an alternative energy source. Read on to discover why solar panels remain inefficient in the energy-consumption arena!

Sun Spots!

How Does Location Affect The Solar Panel?

The location is an essential factor which influences your solar energy output. For example, if you have a solar panel in Las Vegas, the solar cells become relatively ineffective during the time between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M because of the oppressive heat from the desert. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, if you live in Austin, Texas any solar panel with a tilt of at least 22.5 degrees is bound to see a decrease in energy yields during winter, because of all the leaves on the trees. Likewise, a panel in Maine will experience lower yields in the summer months.

You may be wondering why you don’t just change the position of the panel. It is a good idea, but to modify the angle of a panel, you will have to change it physically, and this is not easy. You have to remove the panel and slide it in a slightly different position so that it receives a different intensity of light. When you use automatic trackers, you rotate the entire panel and not just the lighting units. Obviously, this is more difficult than repositioning the panel.

In order to be able to change the position of your solar panel, you should opt for a rotating solar tracker system, which is far superior to a fixed one.

Energy Storage

Solar panels are often not as efficient as you may think. The efficiency rate for commercially available solar panels comes in around 22 to 25 percent. This means that less than 25 percent of the sunlight hitting the panels ends up turning into electricity. The most common way to combat this is to have an additional power generator, the goal is to make use of some of the electricity generated.

Photovoltaic properties basically generate power from sunlight. Solar panels do this by converting light from the sun into direct current electricity. To do this they are layered with photovoltaic cells with each cell acting as an individual solar panel that produces a fraction of the electricity the entire solar panel does.

Solar power collectors, or solar panels are the most common method for converting sunlight into electricity. They are made of photovoltaic cells that gather sunlight and convert it into energy.

Solar Panels

Solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight from a wide range of frequencies.

A photovoltaic cell is used to convert sunlight into direct current electricity. These cells create electrons from sunlight and the more sunlight, the more energy the cells produce.

A photovoltaic solar array is a large number of solar panels placed together. These solar panels are wired together and are then taken to form an electric current in an inverter. The inverter converts the solar power produced by the solar panels into an useable alternating current.

Impact On The Environment

Solar power is an ideal form of clean energy. Most people want to install solar panels on their roof because they want to do their part to improve the environment. But when it comes to solar panels, most people think that they are pretty inefficient when compared to other sources of energy. However, it is the impact on the environment that matters.

Most people are not aware of the impact fossil fuels and other energy sources have on the environment. For example, the way coal, oil, and natural gas are obtained is not exactly environmentally friendly. Even if the emissions from the power plants are captured, they are still a source of pollution. Therefore, when you are considering installing solar panels, you should not only focus on their efficiency, but also focus on how they are impacting the environment. As of now, they might be an inefficient source of energy, but they have an advantage over many other sources when it comes to their impact on the environment. They produce no pollution in the air or ground.

Balance Is The Key

Although solar panels account for a large portion of modern renewable energy, they are known to be among the least efficient sources of clean energy, thanks to their particular construction.

Solar panels are comprised of multiple wafers of silicon clearly positioned to capture as much sunlight as possible for energy. As a result, the panel contains no room for other materials, so the overall effect is that each wafer captures and converts less sunlight into energy.

The formula of having more wafers, but less space to attract sunlight means that the more wafers you have in your panel, the more inefficient the panel will be overall. However, there are some materials that can be added to the panel to improve its overall efficiency.

With careful engineering, you are able to incorporate other materials into the panel, improving the amount of sunlight each wafer can convert into energy, which in turn lowers the ratio of wafers needed. This is exactly what manufacturers do when they incorporate solar trackers into panels.

Solar trackers are placed on panels made from bifacial thin-film panels. In a way, the tracker allows the panel to coordinate the direction of the sunlight so it hits the bifacial surface of the panel and also incorporates reflective coatings on the back surface of the wafer to enhance the efficiency.

Final Thoughts

How to make solar panels more efficient? There is much we can do to make this possible, the most important of which is to continue developing solar technology. Newer solar panels are more efficient than older solar panels, and hopefully newer solar panels will be even more efficient than the newer panels, and so on ad infinitum.

As the price of solar panels goes down, companies and individuals that were wary of installing them because of the high initial investment will begin using them. As more solar power is used, the price will go down more and more.

And as more people see the usefulness of solar, more people will want to use it. As more people use solar, the price will go down more and more. This is the virtuous cycle.

The virtuous cycle will continue until everyone has a job and can afford to make the switch to solar. At this point, the entire world will be using free, renewable energy. How to make solar panels more efficient can be summed up as continuing the cycle and learning new ways to help it along.