Solar Power Advances

As we wrap up another year of growth in the solar industry, It’s enticing to just stop and reflect on the solar power advancements made in 2021. 

More Efficient Than Ever

Developers of solar cells and modules keep looking for ways to maximize photovoltaic (PV) panel efficiency.  Solar conversion efficiency passed 25% this year for Chinese manufacturers JinkoSolar and LONGi for their crystalline silicon technologies.

A bifacial silicon solar cell with an efficiency of 24.3% on the front and 23.4% on the rear makes an effective output of 29%.  A year ago, December 2020, Oxford PV set a new efficiency record for perovskite solar cells at 29.52%.

Optimizing the Power Your Solar Modules Produce

In 2021 Renewable Solar Resources found a way to increase the efficiency of your solar panel array.  Over time, they recognized a problem in solar as well as other electrical generation.  Regardless of the type of hardware you use to move electric current, you will inevitably suffer small losses of power.  It happens everywhere.  It’s just physics, but it spurred another of the solar power advancements. 

With solar energy technology, one of the best tools to improve the efficiency of your panels is to have micro inverters installed.  An under optimized solar panel is made of modules.  Each module converts solar energy into DC electric current.  If you use a central or string inverter, one underperforming module, whether due to shade, debris or snow coverage, can impact the entire solar array power production.  Microinverters boost the performance of each individual module, increases design flexibility, improves system performance monitoring, and boosts solar energy capture.  Instead of gathering power based on the lowest producing portion of your solar panel array, you are gathering all of the electricity and converting it to usable electricity at the panels.  Micro-inverters convert the power from each pv module for maximum output power ranging from 250W to 400W per hour.

Thin Film Technology

Other advances came from a trade disadvantage.  The US Trade restrictions on imports from China led to solar power advances in thin film PV panels.  Even though crystalline silicon dominates around 90% of the solar market thin film got a boost in 2021.  US Based First Solar producer of cadmium telluride solar modules and panels, is expanding its domestic production capacity by 3.3GW. A new plant being built will increase capacity in the utility scale solar market in the US to 6 GW.

One use of the thin film technology is the use of solar skin.  Two MIT engineers recognized the issue causing HOAs to refuse to approve solar energy systems on homes in their associations. They use thin film to create a way for homeowners to customize the look of their panels to blend with roof tiling.  Homeowners can even add patterns and art into their solar design.

From there, it wasn’t such a big leap to solar shingles.  While solar shingles are not nearly as efficient as solar panels, they are aesthetically more pleasing to many homeowners.  They run around the same size as traditional roofing shingles, averaging 12 inches wide by 86 inches long and weight about 13 pounds per square foot. 

Solar shingles function similarly to solar panels.  They absorb the sun’s rays converting the photovoltaic rays to thermal or electrical energy.  Solar shingles are usually made from copper indium gallium selenide.  The components make them flexible and thin, and an ideal semiconductor to boost conversion rate, which is still only about ten to twelve percent on average.  Some shingles are made from monocrystalline silicon, which as a higher efficiency conversion rate from fifteen to twenty percent.  Of course, the silicon shingles are more expensive than their counterparts, but is it another of the coolest solar power advances.

We are moving into a whole new area of solar efficiency, and Renewable Solar Resources is focused on ways to make your homes and businesses independent of fossil fuels.  If you are ready to run on clean, green renewable energy, contact Randy in Minnesota for your energy audit and conversion plan.