photovoltaic solar panel efficiency Record
The efficiency of photovoltaic solar panels, in plain language, can have two meanings. Without getting in to boring technical and mathematical explanations, hopefully this quick explanation of solar efficiency will help.
The first one is how well the solar cells themselves convert the suns energy in to electrical power. For the second meaning this applies to how well they work in real life. For instance dirt on the panels or a cloudy sky will affect efficiency. Other examples are the orientation of the panels towards the sun or maybe a tree or bush is casting a shadow.
Concentration on the first solar efficiency explanation, it is helpful to see how much the advancements in the solar technology has been made over the years with regard to how much power a solar panel can generate.
We have to go back quite a few years to start with. In 1839 the effect of photovoltaic energy was first observed by the French physicist, A. E. Becquerel. Years later in 1883 the discovery was first implemented in a solar cell by Charles Fritts.
Fritts is credited with the invention of the first solar cell which had and efficiency of a massive 1%. Over the years, through working with different materials the efficiency rose and with the use of silicon the 5% barrier was broken in 1954 at Bell Laboratories. In the 1980`s production of solar cells that could produce electricity with 17% came about. With space technology arriving and the need for more efficient solar efficiency brought the level to 20% in 1993. Further pushes brought about levels of 24% in 2000 rising in 2002 to 26%. By the year 2007 levels of 30% solar efficiency had been achieved
Currently the record is held by researchers at the University of New South Wales, Australia with a photovoltaic solar efficiency of 43%. It is worth remember that solar technology took over 100 years to come from 1% to 20% and under 10 years for 20% to 40%.
While those efficiencies are achievable in laboratories and real world production values will be lower, the technology is progressing at a large rate and not just in solar efficiency. Different materials that allow solar power generation to be possible in many different products, Already we are seeing development of solar roof tiles that may blend in and look virtually indistinguishable from normal roof tiling. Flexible arrays and thin film that can be virtually rolled out and pasted on various surfaces. We can even have solar arrays that work in the dark.
Well when we think of solar we think of the sun and daylight. The sun emits radiation, some of this is visible to us and some in hidden and comes in the form of infra-red radiation. Virtually most heat sources emit some infra-red radiation even at night and with some forms solar cells being able to use this radiation to generate electricity, even at night.
The developments of what the team at University of New South Wales have achieved will no doubt filter down to the solar panels that we use at home. The efficiency means to us that we can produce more and more free electricity with much less panels than in previous years. While there is a limit that wont be passed with some forms of technology, there is also a level of cost that will come down that will enable everybody to use solar energy. It is worth keep checking those numbers to see if your level has been reached.