How Efficient Is Solar Energy
The efficiency rating of solar panels is fairly low i.e. the amount of the suns energy converted into electricity. Depending on your situation it can range from 5% to 15%, although there have been some recent breakthroughs in technology which has increased this to 40%. However it will be some years before this technology becomes commercial available in the solar panels we fit to our homes.
When calculating how many solar panels you need for your home, you don’t need to be too concerned about the efficiency rating of your panel because photovoltaic solar panels are specified by their energy generating capacity. For example, 100 watt panels will output 100 watts of energy under ideal conditions. So if you are looking to produce 1kw per hr of energy you will need 10 x 100 watt panels.
Solar panels range in their energy output. Typically they range from 30 to 205 watts. If you are DIY then pay special interest in calculating your energy requirements. If you are getting a company to draw up plans for you then they will take care of this calculation.
There are three main types of solar photovoltaic cells and these are polycrystalline, monocrystalline and thin film. Each has different efficiency ratings when converting the suns energy into electricity and they all have their pro’s and con’s.
The main difference between them is size and price. The more efficient technologies like monocrystalline panels are more efficient than the other two and so the panels are smaller and take up less space when comparing like for like in energy output but they are more expensive.
So before you decide which panels to go for, you need to calculate your energy requirements, establish how much you want to invest and then go and compare the different panels.
There are many other aspects that can affect the efficiency of your panels. We find the following to be the most common: how often you clean them, are they infrared, how much sun do they get and how hot do they get. It is a surprise to many people that for most panels their efficiency drops when the temperature starts to go above 25 Deg Celsius.
Keep in mind, in this article we have been talking about photovoltaic electrical solar power generation. If you want a hot water heater conversion then solar thermal panels are a lot more efficient.
In summary, on face value solar energy does not seem very efficient, although it is improving year on year. However, don’t get too tied up about the efficiency of the panels, focus more on the output, size and level of investment.
If you have any efficiency figures of your own which you would like to share with us then please feel free to add them to this article by adding a comment below.