Over the past 5 years, the price of solar panels has dropped dramatically while efficiency of solar arrays has increased significantly.
Yet, it appears that the renewable energy revolution continues to make life better and cleaner for many of us! The University of Texas at Austin announced this month that one of its solar researchers has discovered a method to further double solar panel efficiency up to 60%!
Solar panel efficiency can be summarized as follows: The term refers to the amount of solar energy that is converted to usable electricity after hitting a solar panel. It does not need to be a bright, sunny day. All you need is UV (ultraviolet) sunlight, filtered through clouds or even precipitation. According to a recent article:
An issue with regular photovoltaic panels is that much of the energy delivered by sunlight results in the conversion of “hot” electrons, which are too high-energy to be converted to electricity in silicon and are instead lost as heat. University of Texas Chemistry professor Xiaoyang Zhu and his team discovered that an organic plastic semiconductor could double the number of electrons harvested out of one photon of sunlight.
Solar panel efficiency is currently about 30% for silicon photovoltaic (PV) solar cells. But solar technology indicates that this figure can at least double, to reach 66% efficiency.
The importance of this discovery is the potential of reaching grid parity – the point at which the cost of purchasing solar electricity is less than the price of fossil-fuel based power.