Solar Panel Efficiency in 2023
Solar panel efficiency measures how well solar panels are able to convert sunlight into usable electricity.
Thanks to advances in technology, solar panel efficiency has steadily improved over time. As a result of this increase in the current solar panel efficiency, you can get the same amount of power with fewer panels on your roof, or more power with the same number of solar panels.
This article will explain what solar panel efficiency means, how the average efficiency of solar panels affects power production, the role high-efficiency solar panels play in the clean energy transformation, and more.
What Determines Solar Panel Efficiency?
Your solar panel’s ability to produce energy by converting the sunlight it receives to usable electricity depends upon five crucial factors: materials, wiring, reflection, age, and temperature.
Impact of Materials on Solar Panel Efficiency
Solar panel manufacturers use different substances to create different types of solar panels, including:
- Polycrystalline silicon
- Monocrystalline silicon
- Cadmium telluride
- Multi-junction solar cells
Each solar panel material helps determine how much sunlight will be converted to electricity. Most manufacturers today use monocrystalline silicon solar cell technology for their panels because of their superior efficiency. Monocrystalline photovoltaic (PV) cells are more efficient than other panel types because they are made from a single crystal of silicon, which means electrons can move more easily through the cell.
In addition to existing solar panel materials like silicon, solar companies are exploring other materials that could deliver even more efficient panel technology, including both organic and more recyclable options. (We have a deeper discussion of these developments below.)
Impact of Wiring on Solar Panel Efficiency
Solar panels can be wired in series and in parallel, and the different wiring configurations have an impact on how your solar panel system will function and how much power it can produce. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, so it’s one of the decisions a solar panel company will make when designing the ideal solar power system for your home.
Wiring also helps determine the right inverter for your solar arrays, whether it’s a string inverter, power optimizer, microinverter, hybrid inverter, or something else entirely. The type of inverter that is used–especially in terms of how power is collected from the panels and sent to your house, battery storage, and electricity grid–can impact your solar panel system’s overall efficiency.
Within the panels themselves, wiring and “busbars” (the metal connecting solar cells in the solar panel that actually captures and transfers electricity) have an effect on efficiency, with more efficient panels using different configurations and different technologies to improve this process.
Impact of Reflection on Solar Panel Efficiency
The amount of light reflected away from a solar cell’s surface impacts solar panel efficiency. Solar panel efficiency depends on the amount of light they can absorb and convert into electricity.
If light reflects off the surface of the panel, it can’t become electricity, which lowers the efficiency of that panel. Solar power panels with textured surfaces and anti-reflection coatings can help minimize the amount of light that gets reflected away.
Impact of Age on Solar Panel Efficiency
The average lifespan of solar panels is about 25 to 30 years. Throughout this period, your solar system should generate all the electricity you need to power your home, unless the panels get blocked by too much shade, dirt, or other debris.
However, during that 25- to 30-year timeframe, your panel efficiency will slowly decrease over time, until they eventually reach a point where the solar panels don’t create enough electricity for all of your home’s needs. This degradation rate is factored into the initial design of a solar power system, but it still impacts your solar panel’s efficiency.
Impact of Temperature on Solar Panel Efficiency
The climate of your area impacts solar panel efficiency, as the energy levels of electrons are determined by their level of excitement. Contrary to what you might think, solar panels are more efficient at lower temperatures. Because the electrons on the thin layer of silicon are calmer and less excited, they can move with greater ease and increased numbers through the transmission lines to generate solar power.
When it is hot, the electrons are more excited and moving in different directions. This makes it more challenging for them to move effectively through the transmission lines, leading to lower solar energy production levels during a hot day.
In other words, you will experience higher voltage and enhanced generation efficiency during a cold sunny day compared to a hot sunny day.
How To Calculate Solar Panel Efficiency
The easiest way to calculate the efficiency of your solar panels is with this formula:
Efficiency (%) = (Pmax ÷ Area) ÷ (1000) x 100%
- Pmax = max solar panel power (in Watts)
- Area = length x width of the solar panel (in m2)
- 1000 = Standard Test Condition (STC) irradiance
Let’s break it down a bit for deeper comprehension.
Find your panel’s max power capacity
You can find this information labeled as Pmax or maximum power on the spec sheet for your solar panels.
Get your panel’s physical dimensions
The standard panel dimensions are 65 inches by 39 inches, but you can also find and verify this information for your own panels–specifically, length and width–on the specification sheet.
Calculate the power unit area of your panel
To get the power unit area of your module, divide its Pmax into its area.
Factor in the STC
Standard Test Condition (STC) represents the ideal environment used by solar manufacturers when testing average solar panel output. These conditions include a cell temperature of 25 °C and air mass of 1.5, and solar irradiance of 1000 W/m2. That value of 1000 W/m2 is what’s used in the efficiency equation.
Calculate solar panel efficiency
Using some sample numbers, we can walk through the math. Assuming your solar panels are 2 m2 in area, produce 400 watts, and receive 1,000 W/m2 of sunlight, the efficiency of your solar panels is 20%.
Efficiency (%) = (400 ÷ 2) ÷ (1000) x 100%
Solar Panel Efficiency in 2023
The average solar panel efficiency in 2023 ranges from 15% to 20%. At the high end, the most efficient solar panels available for public use achieve 22% efficiency.
While the majority of solar panels available in the United States today are below 20% efficiency, we can anticipate that the efficiency of solar energy systems will continue to improve as the solar industry pursues advanced photovoltaic technology.
History of Solar Panel Efficiency
The first major breakthrough in solar power was made by Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel in 1839. He discovered the photovoltaic effect, the root of the modern solar cell. Since then, solar innovation and improvement have remained a FOCUS for the scientific community and the solar industry as they look to improve solar panel efficiency and increase energy output over time.
Below is a brief synopsis of major advances in solar energy efficiency over the last three decades, courtesy of new solar panel technology.
- 1992: The University of South Florida manufactures a 15.89% efficient thin-film cell
- 2012: Solar Frontier achieves 17.8% efficiency
- 2015: First Solar CdTe thin film technology reaches 18.6% efficiency
- 2015: SolarCity hits 22.04% efficiency
- 2015: Panasonic’s 72-cell prototype achieves 22.5% efficiency
- 2015: SunPower attains 22.8% efficiency with its X22 panel
- 2016: The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory achieve 29.8% efficiency
- 2016: The University of South Wales researchers attain 34.5% efficiency
- 2017: George Washington University and Naval Research attain a 44.5% solar cell efficiency
- 2018: Research into perovskite reveals a theoretical upper limit of 66% efficiency
To be clear, a majority of these high efficiency ratings of the most efficient solar panels are achieved in a laboratory setting, and aren’t yet possible at a commercial scale due to high production costs.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has been tracking the increase in research-cell efficiencies for a variety of solar panel technologies, and it shows the continued stair-step of improvements over time:
Solar panel efficiency over time has come a long way, thanks to the relentless efforts of solar panel manufacturers and scientists. These continual improvements in solar panel efficiency are great for the environment because they reduce our reliance on electricity created from fossil fuels and send even more energy to the grid. The clean energy they produce helps reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and also helps us combat greenhouse gas emissions.
Why are Modern Solar Panels Efficient?
There are two main reasons why modern solar panels are more efficient: advances in research and the materials used.
Solar Power Research
The desire to improve solar power efficiency drives the development of new solar panel technology, as these significant breakthroughs to improve solar energy systems continue in solar research centers across the globe.
Leading research facilities like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology use their resources, technologies, and expertise to conduct experimental studies that help develop the high-output solar panels of the future.
Improvements To Materials
Silicon has been the preferred semiconductor material for generating solar energy, and manufacturers have used silicon for decades because solar cells fabricated from it are low-cost, high-efficiency, and long-living.
Solar panel researchers continue to find new ways to increase the effectiveness of silicon, including the creation of ultra-thin crystalline layers, enhanced production processes that remove silicone dust from solar cells, and next-generation growth methods. These modern techniques have resulted in the dramatic solar efficiency improvements we discussed earlier in the article.
Beyond silicone, ongoing experimentation with more efficient materials like perovskite, and the incorporation of various solar technologies in the design process have combined to create the potential for even more highly efficient panels in the future.
Comparing Cost and Value to Rate Efficient Solar Panels
The average current solar panel efficiency ranges from 15% to 20%, but if you wish to install more efficient panels, you should be ready to pay more.
When designing a solar power system, consider the cost-benefit tradeoff between the higher price of more efficient panels and the amount of additional energy they create before you make that investment. It might be more economical to just install a few more lower-efficiency panels, compared to upgrading all panels to a higher efficiency to produce the same amount of power.
Because most customers buy panels that are 15% to 20% efficient, most manufacturers still produce a majority of their panels in that normal efficiency range. However, some circumstances may warrant the installation of high-efficiency solar panels, such as limited roof space or a complicated roof layout.
The space on your roof can impact the number of panels that can be installed. If that space can’t fit the number of lower-efficiency panels required to generate enough power for your needs, solar installers may use more efficient panels at an extra cost.
The design of your roof also determines the number of residential solar panels your home needs, and how they can be positioned. For example, if the area of your roof with more space isn’t angled to receive much sunlight, the area with less space will be considered. This could result in a custom layout for your solar panels which could increase your budget.
If you have a complex roof layout, Palmetto can work with you to determine the solar panel system design that will generate the electricity you need.
The Future of Solar Panel Efficiency
Various research centers are working to increase solar panel efficiency by experimenting with new materials such as organic photovoltaics, concentration photovoltaics, and quantum dots. Manufacturers are also incorporating exciting new technologies that drive the industry forward, including:
- Building-integrated PV panels
- Perovskite solar cells
- Floating solar farms (floatovoltaics)
- Solar skins
- Solar fabric
Floating solar farms are being deployed worldwide, and studies show that in utility-scale settings they can produce more electricity compared to ground-mounted or rooftop installations, thanks to the cooling effects of the water that boost their efficiency. The application of building-integrated PV and solar skins also demonstrates that the future of solar power efficiency is looking bright.
How To Improve the Efficiency of Your Solar Panels
Solar panels are designed to run efficiently without the homeowner needing to do anything. However, you can help ensure your panels are reaching their maximum efficiency by engaging in two simple chores:
- Keep shade off your solar panels
- Clean your panels regularly (Learn more about Solar Panel Cleaning)
You can also help detect possible issues with the efficiency of your solar panel system by tracking its performance through a mobile app like the Palmetto App and enrolling in a routine maintenance service like Palmetto Protect. If the performance of your panels has deteriorated, Palmetto can advise you on steps you can take to generate the electricity your home needs.
Increasing the average efficiency of solar panels remains a key driver of developments in the solar panel industry. Improvements to efficiency is good news for everyone involved in the New Utility Revolution, as it means we can power our homes and businesses with more of the sun’s rays and fewer fossil fuels.
Since solar panel efficiency depends upon materials, wiring, reflectivity, age, and temperature, researchers pursue every possible lead to enhance those factors so that more electricity can be generated more effectively.
At Palmetto, we use some of the most efficient solar panels in the market to maximize your solar production. We know that saving money on your utility bills and helping to save the planet is important to you, which means we’ll help you create the best possible solar panel system for your home.
Interested in adding efficient solar panels to your roof? Learn how much you could be saving with our Estimate Savings Tool today!
The Most Efficient Solar Panels
Solar panel efficiency is an important metric to consider when buying solar panels. The ratings give you an idea of your solar panel’s output. As you install the PV modules, you want to ensure they can meet your home’s electricity demand. For this reason, buying efficient solar panels is a crucial step in attaining energy independence.
The goal of switching to solar for most people is reducing their energy bills. Unfortunately, you cannot do this when your output is limited. In this article, we are going to look at the most efficient solar panels in the market.
What is Solar Panel Efficiency?
Solar panel efficiency refers to a unit of measurement that tells you the panel’s ability to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Two different solar panels with varying efficiency ratings and accessing the same amount of sunlight will differ in the electricity generation. Solar cell composition influences the production of electricity.
Due to growth in technology, the average efficiency rating is on the rise. Before we look at the most efficient solar panels, let us look at their characteristics. Two factors influence the panel’s efficiency. These are:
- Total panel efficiency, which is subject to the size, configuration, and cell layout
- Photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency. Cell design and silicon type determine the efficiency.
Efficiency of the Cell
Base silicon material and the cell structure determine cell efficiency. Mostly, the silicon material is either N-type or P-type. To calculate efficiency, manufacturers use fill factor or FF. In this method, optimum voltage and current determine the maximum conversion of the cell.
Another important factor determining efficiency is the design of the cell. Here, the features you can look out for include the number of busbars (MBB), type of silicon, and passivation type(PERC).
The Efficiency of the Panels
Manufacturers measure the panel’s efficiency in laboratories under STC or standard test conditions. The conditions are solar irradiance of 1000W/m2, cell temperature of 77°F, and Air Mass of 1.5.
Factors Affecting Efficiency
Many factors influence solar panels’ efficiency. These include the cell’s temperature, irradiance level, type of the cell, and cell interconnection.
Additionally, the color of the protective panel’s back sheet can also influence efficiency. For example, although a black sheet has excellent aesthetic appeal, its heat absorption rate is high, leading to higher cell temperatures. As a result, this leads to an increase in resistance, slightly reducing conversion efficiency.
The Most Efficient Solar Panels in 2020
The most efficient panels are the ones that are made using IBC cells. After these there are those built using half-cut and multi busbar monocrystalline cells, mono shingled cells, and lastly, standard 60 cells (4-5 busbar) mono cells. Polycrystalline panels or standard 60 cell poly come at a low cost. However, they are the least efficient.
In 2020, the most efficient panels contain high purity N-type IBC cells. SunPower and LG companies manufacture those panels. Also, high-performance HJT N-type cells boost performance in Alpha series panels. Most companies continue to improve on their solar panel manufacturing technology. In the table below, we highlight the ten most efficient solar panels.
What are the Most Efficient Solar Panels?
Installing solar panels is an excellent method to save electricity and minimize electricity expenses. However, understanding the distinctions in solar panel manufacturing is critical in order to select the most efficient solar panels for your business or home installation.
If you’ve done your research on the best solar panels available and have opted to emphasize efficiency, you’ve made a wise decision. Purchasing the highest efficiency solar panels gives you the most value for the money when working with limited roof space and is frequently (but not always) the best choice for homeowners.
Solar panel efficiency, in its most basic form, refers to the quantity of sunlight that falls on the panels and is turned into energy, or solar power. In this post, we’ll explain why solar efficiency is crucial and how to choose the most efficient solar panels for your home.
Understanding Solar Panels Efficiency
The quantity of sunlight (irradiation) that falls on the surface of a solar panel and is turned into energy is measured by solar panel efficiency. Because of recent developments in solar technology, the average panel conversion efficiency has risen from 15% to well over 20%. Because of this significant increase in efficiency, the power rating of a standard-size panel increased from 250W to 370W. The most efficient solar panels on the market today only achieve around 22.8 percent efficiency (holler to Sun Power), which means that the panel converts roughly 22.8 percent of the sun’s irradiance into useable AC energy.
As detailed further below, solar panel efficiency is influenced by two major elements: photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency, which is driven by cell design and silicon type, and overall panel efficiency, which is determined by cell layout, configuration, and panel size.
The cell structure and substrate utilized, which is often P-type or N-type silicon, affect cell efficiency. The fill factor (FF), which is the highest conversion efficiency of a PV cell at the optimal operating voltage and current, is used to determine cell efficiency.
Panel efficiency is greatly influenced by cell design. The silicon type, busbar arrangement, and passivation type are all important characteristics to consider (PERC). Due to the high purity N-type silicon substrate and negligible busbar shading losses, panels constructed using high-cost IBC cells are now the most efficient (20-22 percent). Panels built using the most recent monocrystalline PERC cells and more sophisticated heterojunction (HJT) cells, on the other hand, have attained efficiency levels far beyond 20%.
Solar panel efficiency is determined under standard test settings (STC), which are 25°C cell temperature, 1000W/m2 solar irradiation, and 1.5 Air Mass. A panel’s efficiency (percentage) is efficiently computed by dividing the maximum power rating, or Pmax (W) at STC, by the whole panel area measured in meters squared.
Many factors can affect overall panel efficiency, including temperature, irradiance level, cell type, and cell connectivity. Surprisingly, the color of the protective back sheet might have an impact on efficiency. A black back sheet may appear more visually beautiful, but it absorbs more heat, raising cell temperature and increasing resistance, which affects overall conversion efficiency marginally.
Solar panels constructed with advanced ‘Interdigitated back contact’ or IBC cells are the most efficient, followed by heterojunction (HJT) cells, half-cut and multi-busbar monocrystalline PERC cells, shingled cells, and lastly 60-cell (4-5 busbar) mono cells. 60 cell polycrystalline or multi-crystalline panels are often the least efficient and also the least expensive panels.
Top 10 Most Efficient Solar Panels
Let’s take a look at the most efficient solar panels accessible in 2022, given all of the recent improvements in solar technology. These are the most efficient solar panels at the time of writing, according to our research:
|Most Efficient Solar Panels
The wattage output or maximum power capability of the panel is referred to as power. The more powerful a solar panel is, the more electricity it can generate. It’s worth noting that power influences, rather than determines, % efficiency.
Why Is Efficiency Important?
Although the term “efficiency” is frequently used, it is important to remember that a little more efficient panel does not automatically imply a higher-quality panel. When choosing a solar panel, many people believe efficiency to be the most essential factor, but what counts most is manufacturing quality, which is linked to real-world performance, dependability, manufacturer service, and warranty terms.
In terms of the environment, improved efficiency implies a solar panel will pay back its embodied energy (energy needed to extract raw materials and produce the solar panel) in a shorter amount of time. According to a rigorous lifetime study, most silicon-based solar panels pay for themselves within two years, depending on location. Payback period has been decreased to less than 1.5 years in many regions as panel efficiency has improved by over 20%. Increased efficiency also implies that a solar system will generate more power during the normal 20 year life of a solar panel and will pay for itself sooner, boosting the return on investment (ROI).
The efficiency of a solar panel is a strong indicator of its performance, especially since many high-efficiency panels employ higher-grade N-type silicon cells with a better temperature coefficient and less power deterioration over time. Some manufacturers, such as LG, Panasonic, and SunPower, even provide 25-year guarantees that guarantee 90 percent or higher power output retention.
Area vs. Efficiency
Efficiency makes a significant impact on the amount of roof area required. Higher efficiency panels produce more energy per square meter and so require less total space. This is ideal for rooftops with limited space, but it can also allow bigger capacity systems to be installed on any roof. For example, 12 × high efficiency 400W solar panels with a 21.8 percent conversion efficiency, such as those from LG or SunPower, will produce roughly 1200W (1.2kW) more total solar capacity than the same number of comparable size 300W panels with a lower 17.5 percent efficiency.
- 12 × 300W panels with 17.5 percent efficiency = 3,600 W
- 12 × 400W panels with 21.8 percent efficiency = 4,800 W
Other Factors Influencing Efficiency
At the risk of seeming too technical, here are a few key features of solar panels that affect efficiency.
A solar cell’s ability to absorb a certain wavelength of light varies. Most contemporary solar cell technology can only capture visible light and cannot capture additional wavelengths such as infrared and UV radiation. In general, the more light that can be caught, the more efficient the cell. Some researchers are now working on solar cells that can capture infrared wavelengths, which would greatly boost efficiency.
Extreme weather conditions and high temperatures may put a lot of strain on a solar panel. In reality, solar panels are more effective in cooler weather since they do not overheat. Panels that are tough and can endure high temperatures will have a longer lifespan and be more efficient.
To maintain their lifespan, solar panels require a protective coating. The difficulty is that this protective coating should not reflect any of the potential energy that the solar cells are attempting to gather. Higher-efficiency panels will have high-quality protective coatings that reflect as little light as possible, resulting in increased overall energy production.
How to Choose the Most Energy-Efficient Solar Panels
As the industry recognizes the potential of solar panels, solar panel producers continue to achieve significant advances in efficiency. Residential solar systems, which often have the least amount of area to work with, benefit from highly efficient mono-crystalline panels. As a result, the majority of leading solar firms should be qualified to sell and install the most efficient solar panels indicated above.
If you want to invest in high-efficiency panels, we recommend contacting solar panel installation companies in your area to learn more about their product offerings. You’ll be well equipped to choose the proposal with the most value for your money now that you know so much about solar efficiency and why it matters.
Fill out the form on our website to get started connecting with qualified local installers.
What is the Most Efficient Solar Cell Out There Today?
Despite the fact that the sun only shines sometimes, solar energy has proven to be a viable alternative to beautiful, beautiful coal and other fossil fuels. Total solar PhotoVoltaic (PV) capacity in the United States reached 64.2 gigawatts in 2018, enough to power 12.3 million American homes (or most of Southeast Asia). Part of the explosive growth has been thanks to the Solar Investment Tax Credit enacted back in 2006. Advances in solar cell technology, particularly by improving their efficiency to convert light into electricity, has also been key for powering a U.S. solar industry that employs more than 242,000 people. That got us to wondering: What is the most efficient solar cell out there today?
A Brief History of the Solar Cell
The photovoltaic effect was discovered by 19-year old Edmund Becquerel while screwing around in his dad’s Paris lab in 1839. He was building a type of battery using two silver-coated platinum electrodes immersed in a dilute acid. While one was kept shaded, the other was exposed to sunlight. Becquerel observed that the “two electrodes altered their electric power.” A few decades passed before additional experiments showed that illumination could produce electric power in certain materials like selenium. In 1883, a New Yawker named Charles Fritts invented the first solar cell panel by coating “selenium with an extremely thin layer of gold, so it was transparent to light.” He achieved a whopping 1% to 2% efficiency, despite the fact that he had no idea what he was doing.
It wasn’t until Albert Einstein entered the picture that the PV effect was better understood. American engineer Russell Ohl patented the first solar cell made of silicon in 1941, though we had to wait until the mid-1950s before solar cell efficiency started to inch past 2% efficiency.
The Most Efficient Solar Cell Out There Today
Solar cell efficiency simply refers to the amount of electricity produced in watts divided by the amount of solar energy it absorbs. Companies like SunPower (SPWR), LG Solar (066570:KS), First Solar (FSLR), and Panasonic (6752:JP) are among the manufacturers producing the most efficient commercially available solar panels today. The best of the best can hit somewhere between 20% and 23% efficiency, with the general consensus among analysts being that SunPower produces the most efficient commercially available solar panels today. We’ve covered the company before, as it appears on the Guggenheim Solar ETF (TAN) portfolio and is using artificial intelligence to make better PV cells.
You may have noticed our recurring “commercially available” caveat. That’s because there are more efficient solar cells out there today, but they’re not commercially available. Yet.
A couple of years ago, scientists designed a prototype solar cell that stacked multiple cells into a single device that captured nearly all of the energy in the solar spectrum, resulting in 44.5% efficiency. Basically, the device used lenses to concentrate sunlight onto tiny, micro-scale solar cells, acting sort of like a “sieve for sunlight, with the specialized materials in each layer absorbing the energy of a specific set of wavelengths.” It’s pretty cool, but pretty expensive to scale at this time.
A Silicon Valley company called Alta Devices, which was acquired in 2013 by a Chinese holding company that specializes in alternative energy, has produced a solar cell with a record 29.1% efficiency. Its solar cell uses a material called gallium arsenide. Gallium is a soft, silvery metal used in various electronics. Gallium arsenide has several unique characteristics that make it ideal for solar cell technology, according to Alta Devices, including high efficiency, excellent UV and radiation resistance, flexibility, and low weight. However, the technology is being targeted for specialized applications, such as small satellites, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles, electric vehicles, and autonomous sensors. The Alta Devices solar cell is currently being tested aboard the International Space Station for possible use in future NASA low-Earth orbit missions, including powering CubeSats.
A PV technology with more immediate commercial promise for boosting solar cell efficiencies beyond the limits of silicon relies on a material called perovskite.
What is a Perovskite Solar Cell?
Perovskite refers to any crystalline material with a very particular structure, taking its name from a mineral in the Ural Mountains that was named after a Russian scientist called L.A. Perovski. The raw materials and fabrication processes are relatively cheap, while the crystalline structure is well suited for sucking the most possible light with just a thin film.
In other words, perovskite solar cells are cheap, highly efficient, thin, lightweight, and flexible – a potentially winning combination for the next generation of solar cells. And the technology has advanced rapidly. After Japanese scientists developed the first perovskite-based solar cell in 2009, researchers created the first stable thin-film perovskite solar cells with efficiencies of more than 10% by 2012.
The Most Efficient Perovskite Solar Cell Out There Today
Six years later, a company out of Oxford, UK, called, creatively enough, Oxford PV, set a world record of 28% efficiency for its perovskite-silicon tandem solar cell. Founded in 2010, Oxford PV has raised about 99 million, including a 41 million Series D last month led by a Chinese wind turbine manufacturer, Goldwind (no doubt a subsidiary of Goldfinger). Just a few days later, Swiss solar company Meyer Burger took an 18.8% stake in Oxford PV in exchange for installing a production line in the company’s manufacturing facility in Germany, making it the biggest shareholder in the startup, Greentech Media reported. Obviously, there’s a lot of confidence in Oxford PV’s technology, which involves coating a traditional silicon cell with a thin layer of transparent perovskite, enabling it to capture more of the visible light spectrum. Some big brains out there believe Oxford PV can eventually push past the 30% efficiency ceiling.
Other Startups Developing Perovskite Solar Cells
While Oxford PV appears to have the inside track on commercializing a perovskite-based solar cell, it’s not the only startup trying to get to market. Here are a couple more companies trying to generate more electricity from the sun using the new technology.
Founded in 2017, Swift Solar out of Golden, Colorado took in 4.6 million last December, according to a SEC filing. While there’s not much information about the company or its current activities, Swift Solar co-founder Sam Stranks said in a TED presentation back in 2016 that it’s possible to create perovskite cells that are colorful, semi-transparent or opaque, which means the solar panels can become an integral part of a building’s design. Some of the perovskite-based solar cells developed during the founders’ academia days are so lightweight that they can be suspended on a soap bubble.
Let’s hope that bubble doesn’t burst like it did for an Australian company called Greatcell Solar, which had attempted to commercialize a perovskite-based solar cell before recently entering Australia’s version of bankruptcy proceedings.
Founded in 2014, Polish startup Saule Technologies has raised an undisclosed amount of funding based on research by one of its co-founders who created a novel, low-temperature processing method for perovskite solar cells. Specifically, the perovskite panels are produced using an inkjet printer.
The technique allows the company to produce flexible, customized solar panels. Skanska – the fifth largest construction company in the world – has exclusive rights to use Saule Technologies’ solar cell solutions in construction and development projects, and recently implemented it in one of their Warsaw office projects. According to Skanska, “the first pilot production facility is scheduled to be launched at the end of 2019 ,which would allow for the fabrication of large perovskite PV modules on an industrial scale.” Saule also deployed their technology at the “world’s first robot hotel” in Japan, the one which ended up firing half their robot staff at the beginning of this year.
Nanotechnology for Making Efficient Solar Cells
We’re all about nanotechnology here at Nanalyze, so we had to check out one last startup that says it can reach 90% efficiency with its solar panel technology, which relies on carbon nanotubes, a topic we wrote about extensively a few years back. In this case, the carbon nanotubes act like an antenna, but collect light rather than radio waves, converting it into electricity. The technology is based on a 1960s invention – the rectifying antenna – which is used in radio frequency identification tags, PV Magazine reported. The carbon nanotubes allow NovaSolix to capture a much broader portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The company claims 45% efficiency is within reach, while future iterations could theoretically double that.
Despite tariffs and other challenges that have blunted the market a bit over the last couple of years, the solar industry has experienced incredible growth, with a healthy startup scene. The latest RD to boost solar cell efficiency could be the catalyst to reignite that dynamic growth, especially with new technologies like perovskite-based materials promising lower production costs. Oxford PV appears to be the front-runner to reach commercial scale in the next year or two, so we won’t have to wait long to see the dawn of a new day for solar energy.
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