The Most Efficient Panels Yet
With more competition than ever, solar tech companies work day and night to provide manufacturers with the designs for the most efficient panels to ever hit the market. In 2015, SunPower released its x-series-x22 panel that has an unbelievable efficiency of 22%. This single panel can convert a little over of the sunlight that it receives into electricity. This high-power panel was revolutionary at the time, but it did have its downsides. Because it was several percent more efficient than the next highest panel, it was also one of the most expensive solar panels on the market.
Since 2015, solar tech companies and manufacturers have raced to surpass the 22% mark. Oxford PV, a solar tech company, has developed solar cells that convert over 28% of the sunlight they receive into electricity. They have found that covering traditional solar cells with a thin layer of crystal material called perovskite can increase power generation. The perovskite layer allows the solar cells to absorb a larger portion of the solar spectrum than a traditional silicon panel. The problem is that they have yet to release an entire panel covered in this material to the market.
Perovskite and Silicon
New Efficiency Record For Solar Cell Technology
- National University of Singapore
- A research team has set a new record in the power conversion efficiency of solar cells made using perovskite and organic materials. Their latest work demonstrated a power conversion efficiency of 23.6%, approaching that of conventional silicon solar cells. This technological breakthrough paves the way for flexible, light-weight, low cost and ultra-thin photovoltaic cells for wide-ranging applications.
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore has set a new record in the power conversion efficiency of solar cells made using perovskite and organic materials. This technological breakthrough paves the way for flexible, light-weight, low cost and ultra-thin photovoltaic cells which are ideal for powering vehicles, boats, blinds and other applications.
“Technologies for clean and renewable energy are extremely important for carbon reduction. Solar cells that directly convert solar energy into electricity are among the most promising clean energy technologies. High power conversion efficiency of solar cells is critical for generating more electrical power using a limited area and this, in turn, reduces the total cost of generating solar energy,” explained lead researcher Presidential Young Professor Hou Yi, who is from the NUS Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and also leading a “Perovskite-based Multi-junction Solar Cells group” at the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at NUS.
Molten Salt Storage Technology
A company called Novatec Solar recently commissioned a promising energy storage solution for solar PV systems using a molten salt storage technology. The process uses inorganic salts to transfer energy generated by solar PV systems into solar thermal using heat transfer fluid rather than oils as some storage systems have.
The result is that solar plants can operate at temperatures over 500 degrees Celsius, which would result in a much higher power output. This means that costs to store solar would be lowered significantly and utility companies could finally use solar power plants as base load plants rather than to meet peak demand during prime daylight hours.
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Floating Photovoltaic Solar Panels
Lakes and reservoirs have some of the largest available surface areas that have the potential to produce solar energy. A major advantage is that floating PV solar panels produce massive amounts of energy without taking up valuable land or real estate. The first commercial use of floating solar panels was in Japan in 2007. PV solar panels generally use an air-cooling system to prevent them from overheating. But in the floating version, water was found to increase electricity production by 10%.
This was due to the cooling effect of the water beneath the panels. The cost of maintaining the panels of a floating system is less expensive. This is because the water helps the panels remain dirt-free. In addition, water management of the lake or reservoir inadvertently becomes more cost-effective. The shade cast by the panels helps to significantly reduce excessive algae forming. The expanse of the floating solar panels drastically reduces the evaporation of the water.
Panel Size Vs Efficiency
Panel efficiency is calculated by the power rating divided by the total panel area, so just having a larger size panel does not always equate to higher efficiency. However, larger panels using larger size cells increases the cell surface area which does boost overall efficiency.
Most common residential panels still use the standard 6 square 60-cell panels while commercial systems use the larger format 72 cell panels. However, as explained below, a new industry trend emerged in 2020 towards much larger panel sizes built around new larger size cells which increased panel efficiency and boosted power output up to an impressive 600W.
The Most Affordable Panels Yet
As official install numbers have yet to be released by Wood Mackenzie and SEIA, its difficult to pinpoint exactly how many residential solar systems were installed in 2020. However, it is no secret that 2020 was a big year for the solar industry! Through thriving during a debilitating pandemic, homeowners should be excited to see solar spread even more in 2021. As the demand for solar increases, the solar sector will have to grow. This means dozens and even hundreds of new solar companies will sweep the nation. Although this might not be the greatest news for older solar companies, it is great news for homeowners interested in going solar.
A continual increase in competition will cause solar system prices to drop making 2021 the cheapest year to go solar yet! In order to give a better perspective of solar price drops from year to year, lets take a look at 2019 and 2020. In 2019, the average cost per a watt for solar was $1.41. Last year that figure dropped to $1.33. Eight cents might not seem like much, but when you plug that data into the average system size of 6,000 watts there is almost a $500 price reduction from 2019 to 2020. The average price per watt has decreased every year for the last decade, which means 2021 is bound to see a healthy price drop. To make matters even better, the federal tax incentive has been renewed and will stay at 26% for the next two years. This means that 2021 will be the cheapest year ever to go solar!
Best Solar Panels Ranked By Materials Warranty
A solar panels materials warranty protects against equipment failure due to environmental factors or manufacturing defects. The longest material warranty you can find on the market is 25 years, offered by the following solar panel manufacturers:
Best solar panels by material warranty
As shown above, all of the top solar panel manufacturers ranked by materials warranty offer the same length of the warranty, setting this tier of companies apart. For reference, the industry standard for panel materials warranties is 10 years.
To better understand overall solar panel warranties and see the ranking system we developed, check out this article comparing the best solar panel warranties.
The first three manufacturers are also featured on our efficiency and temperature coefficient lists, while LG, Silfab, and Q CELLS are frequently regarded as some of the top brands available today. All thirteen solar panel manufacturers listed above offer a 25-year warranty setting this tier of companies apart. For reference, the industry standard for panel materials warranties is 10 years. Most companies offer at least a 10-year materials warranty, but the best solar panel manufacturers will guarantee against equipment failures for 15 or even 25 years. Many of the manufacturers in our ranking offer a materials warranty of more than 10 years.
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Advances In Energy Storage
Another major focus of scientists is to find new ways to store energy produced by solar PV systems. Currently, electricity is largely a “use it or lose it” type resource whereby once it’s generated by a solar PV system the electricity goes onto the grid and must be used immediately or be lost. Since the sunlight does not shine 24 hours a day, this means that most solar PV systems are only meeting electrical demands for a portion of the day – as a result, a lot of electricity is lost, if it’s not used.
There are a number of batteries on the market that can store this energy, but even the most high-tech ones are fairly inefficient they’re also expensive and have a pretty short shelf life, making them not the most attractive options for utility companies and consumers. That is why scientists are exploring different ways to store this electricity so that it can be used on demand.
Improved High Temperature Performance
The new REC Alpha series with half-cut HJT cells
The most impressive characteristic of HJT cells is the incredibly low temperature coefficient which is around 40% lower compared to common multi and mono silicon crystalline cells. Solar panel power is rated under Standard Test Conditions which is measured at a cell temperature of 25°C. Every degree above the STC temperature reduces power output by a small percentage known as the power temperature coefficient. In common multi and mono cells, the temperature coefficient is 0.38% to 0.42% per °C which can add up to reduce total output by up to 20% during very hot windless days. In comparison HJT cells have an very low 0.26%/°C temperature coefficient.
It is worth noting that panel and cell temperature are also affected by roof type and colour, tilt angle and wind speed, so mounting panels flat on a very dark rooftop will usually reduce panel performance compared to lighter coloured rooftops.
Diagram highlighting the increased high temperature performance and efficiency of heterojunction solar cells.
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Top 5 Most Efficient Panels On The Market Today
Many panel manufacturers today are competing for the bragging rights as to the most efficient solar panel. Below is a list of 5 manufacturers bringing to market some of the highest efficiency residential solar panels in 2020:
SunPower, in addition to regularly setting and re-setting the bar for the single highest efficiency panel on the market, has also positioned themselves as the premium equipment manufacturer across the board. With multiple offerings above 20% efficiency, you always know youre considering a top tier panel when shopping Sunpower. Checkout SunPowers premium panel line.
LG, eversince breaking into the solar market, has been expected to deliver high quality products. And while they have certainly delivered on those expectations since the beginning, they have really raised the bar recently with their NeON 2 series and NeON R series which feature modules surpassing 21% efficiency.
Solaria strives to differentiate themselves through cutting edge technology. Unlike most solar panels, Solaria panels have no busbars which help to avoid failure points and efficiency loss, parallel substrings to improve efficiency in less optimal conditions, and patented technology that cuts solar cells into overlapped strips which leads to a sleek and unmatched jetblack aesthetic. Check out Solarias advanced panel technology to learn more.
How Often Do Solar Panels Need To Be Serviced
Solar panels require little to no professional servicing unless something is immediately wrong with your PV system. If you live in an area or climate where your panels are subject to becoming dirty to the point where rain wont do the trick, occasional cleaning is recommended to keep your system running optimally. Check out our article on solar panel cleaning to learn more.
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Best Solar Panels Ranked By Efficiency
A solar panels efficiency measures how well it converts sunlight into electricity. Based only on maximum module efficiency, here are the top five manufacturers that make the best solar panels:
Best solar panels by efficiency
The best solar panels available on the market today are SunPowers A-Series Residential Solar Panels, which are 22.8% efficient at their maximum. A higher efficiency rating is better because it means that your solar panel is able to convert more of the sunlight it captures into electricity.
Most efficient solar panel brands
Install The Solar Panels
Once the frame has been attached, the installation of the solar panels can begin. The panels are clamped to the aluminium frame but not too tightly at first, in order to have some space to adjust them slightly later. Once all panels are set up in their position, they are firmly secured to the frame.
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Do Solar Panels Affect House Insurance
In most cases, when you install solar panels on your roof, your insurance should cover you under the current terms. However, since a solar panel installation results in a change to the home structure, it is always advised to contact your current insurance provider before proceeding with the installation.
Its important to note that your home insurance may not include a cover for any damage by your solar panel or theft of the system. Therefore, its important to confirm with your insurance provider that your panels will also be covered.
Installing solar panels is a worthwhile investment for both homes and companies. They are a great step towards sustainability, reduce utility bills, and can even be a way for you to earn money back.
A Snapshot Of Solar Power From 2021 To 2022
The solar power industry began 2021 with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing. Due to it, disruption occurred in the production, shipping, and installation of solar panels across the world. This said, solar businesses looked to drive forwards as best they could nonetheless, and consumers remained anxious to take up solar power. 2021 was also a year in which a number of truly exciting breakthroughs occurred.
So as we now make our way into a new year, what landmark moments were seen in the solar power and wider renewables sector during 2021? And what do early indications tell us about how 2022 may play out? Lets unpack these questions now.
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New Solar Cell Architectures: Topcon & Hjt Technologies
TOPCon or tunnel oxide passivated contacts is basically considered as the forthcoming and alternative technology to the current state-of-the-art passivated emitter and rear cell solar cell design. The cell architecture is based on the concept of passivating and carrier selective contacts, where the recombination of minority charge carriers is suppressed by a stack of thin tunnel oxide and heavily-doped polysilicon layers . The common industrial practice is to apply this structure on the rear side of the n-type solar cell. The TOPCon process involves some additional steps over the PERC production process. One such process is emitter formation via boron diffusion. Annealing might be another additional step, depending on the polysilicon doping mechanism . TOPCon has the highest theoretical efficiency potential at 28.7, while the highest lab efficiency of 26.1% has been reached by Institute for Solar Energy Research Hamelin . Several giant PV module manufacturers including Jolywood, LONGi Solar, and Jinko Solar have released products with this technology in 2021.
PV modules that are produced based on HJT technology have higher prices and production costs compared to PV modules with TOPCon solar cells. Moreover, Both of these trends have higher prices in comparison with PERC cells.
Larger 104 Cell Format
The latest generation panels from SunPower, simply named the Maxeon 2 and Maxeon 3, are built around a new 104 cell format with 8 rows of 13 gen-3 cells, to create the worlds most powerful residential solar panel at 400Wp. The full series Maxeon 3 panels range from 370 to 400W and replaced the older X Series while the Maxeon 2 panels ranging from 340W to 360W replaced the older E series.
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Most Advanced Solar Panels
Below is our top 10 list of the most advanced solar panels currently available rated according to the PV cell technology, efficiency improvements, performance, and innovations. For the most efficient solar panels see our detailed solar panel efficiency review.
* Leading model using the most advanced PV cells currently offered by the manufacturer
HJT = Heterojunction cells, MBB = Multi busbars, Gapless = High-denisty cells, Ga-doped = Gallium doped silicon
Learn about the difference between N-type and P-type solar cells here.
What Types Of Solar Cells Are There
The most common types of domestic solar panels are monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels, and thin-film solar panels. There are additional types of solar panels on the market, however, these three are most commonly used for domestic purposes.
These three types of solar panels all produce electricity from sunlight, but it is important to be aware of their key differences.
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Passivated Emitter Rear Cell
As thin-film technology developed in the 80s, PERC is an add-on technology that aims to improve the efficiency of first-generation solar cells.
In this technology, there are two layers applied to the back of the crystalline silicon cell. They enhance the movement of electrons in the cell. They also bounce back light that has passed through the cell the first time onto the surface so that it can be converted to usable electricity.
PERC affords a 1% increase in efficiency which is admittedly modest at best.
Also, PERC solar cells are susceptible to a specific type of degradation called light and elevated temperature-induced degradation, , which reduces efficiency over time.
One study found that up to 20% efficiency could be lost in 2-3 years from PERC.
Hopefully, further developments will rectify the problem of reduced efficiency with PERC. In the meantime, check your warranty to see if your PERC-enhanced system is covered for power loss. Look for a 83+%/25 yrs. power warranty or higher.