Environmental Impact

Advancements in Solar Panel Efficiency

Solar power is one of the most popular sources of renewable energy among homeowners and businesses due to its eco-friendly, cost-effective, and reliable operation. However, like other technology and equipment, improvements can be made to the solar panels that make solar power possible to maximize their capacity and thus their overall benefits.

Hence, continued research is underway as part of an ongoing effort to help improve their efficiency and energy use toward sustainability.

Reports explain that solar panels’ ability to turn sunlight into usable electricity depends on various factors, which today’s advancements made by material and chemical scientists in the field are geared towards addressing for enhanced sunlight harnessing on every level, including:

Additional Light-Absorbing Materials

Traditional solar panels utilize solar cells made of silicon, which solely attract red light to be turned into energy. However, researchers have found that adding a new semiconductor material called perovskite on top of the silicon layer helps the cells also attract blue electromagnetic radiation for increased total light absorption.

According to the Renewal Energy Institute, the new semiconductor material is scientifically proven to be more than 32 percent efficient at capturing light than silicon-based panels alone, which are only 29 percent efficient.

Perovskite, like silicon, is also cheap to produce and can be used in various applications of all scales for greater versatility.

The increased rate of solar power generated by the added insulation to the silicon layer of the cells also helps fight global warming.

Increased Photon Capture for Less Sunlight Waste

Another method scientists are testing to help make solar panels more efficient is adding anti-reflective coatings to the back and front of the photovoltaic cells. As a result, it helps ensure all light entering and bouncing around the cell is harvested for more efficient panels.

Otherwise, sunlight that reaches the surface of the cells risks being bounced back into space if it fails to penetrate the solar panel’s electrons. Additionally, any rays that make their way inside the cell to the back without hitting an electron would also simply be reflected back into space, further contributing to a loss of harnessable light.

Hence, the anti-reflective coating on the back of the cells would allow the cells another chance to absorb any unabsorbed light to convert it to electricity as it exits back into the atmosphere.

Improved Cell Pattern Designs

The PV cells in traditional solar panels are designed in a rectangular or square pattern, which many researchers believe hinders maximum electron/photon collision.

So, to increase the chance of light photons colliding with the electrons inside the panel, the silicon in the solar cells is now being patterned in tiny pyramid shapes. In this case, it will allow the light to penetrate deeper into the cell, thus increasing the likelihood of it colliding with the electrons before escaping the cell.

They are also considering replacing monfacial modules with bifacial modules, which will harness sunlight from each side for up to 20 percent increased panel efficiency over modules that only capture light on one side.

Increased Solar Panel Efficiency

Information published by Forbes shows that advancements are also made in increasing the size of solar cells from 156.75 millimeters to 166 millimeters, thus creating more watts per panel, which generates more electricity.

These incremental increases in cell size are expected to continue until they no longer fit the panel and compromise its function.

Increased Solar Power Cell Efficiency

The photovoltaic cells themselves are also being reconstructed to help improve their efficiency. For instance, one research method found that slicing the cells in half also adds more watts of power per panel.

Halving the cells is shown to provide up to seven additional watts of power for up to .5 percent improved panel efficiency per year.

Improved Module Interconnections

Scientists are also looking into improving the placement of solar cells with shingling, similar to how tiles are overlapped on a roof. Hence, it allows for complete coverage of the module, so there is no space where the cells are not receiving light, thus making the technology more efficient.

Improvements are also being made to the busbars, which are the wires that connect the cells to each other to share the current they generate to power the inverter.

Traditional busbars have a wide design that creates cell shading, especially when adding two or more of them to the top of each cell. Therefore, researchers are also in the works of creating new versions of them with narrower builds to prevent the obstruction of light absorption by the cells once they are attached.

They are also replacing their thin wires with smart wires to optimize the cell connection.

The Addition of Anti-Soiling Coatings

Solar cells become layered with pollution, dust, and other debris in the outdoor environment, which causes a reduction in their energy consumption over time. Hence, you will most likely need to contact a professional to have them cleaned, which can be expensive, especially if you have a large solar panel layout.

However, today’s advancements to increase solar panel efficiency also include adding anti-soil coating to the modules to help prevent the need for cleaning. Thus, it will also help keep them working their best longer.

The Takeaway

Recent advancements toward making solar panels more efficient also provide many other benefits for businesses and homeowners, including helping lower electricity costs. It also helps lower production costs for manufacturers, which, in turn, makes solar power systems more affordable to everyone.

Furthermore, since adding more semiconductor material to solar cells is shown to help keep global heat under control, it has also sparked other efforts to help increase the installation rate of solar power to help further address climate change.

In the meantime, these are just a few of the ways scientists have come up with to increase solar panel efficiency, but more progressions are also in the works, which will be introduced over the next five years or so.

Ensuring their compatibility with traditional solar power systems is also a priority so that even those with older equipment can still benefit from the upgrades.