Researchers are continuously working towards making better and more efficient solar panels with each passing year. There has been a remarkable improvement in the manufacturing and working of solar panels in the past decade. You can select better and more efficient panels with the latest technology. But factors affecting solar panel efficiency have increased and remained in the picture always. While working with solar panels I came across the question can you increase the efficiency of solar panels numerous times. The answer to this is in your hands, come find out.
What is Solar Panel Efficiency?
The average energy output of a given area is termed solar panel efficiency. The overall amount of energy generated by solar panels during the day is their efficiency. It is calculated by multiplying incidental radiation flux or sunlight received on that particular surface area by the size of solar panels in square meters. The received value is then divided by the maximum wattage of panels which is then multiplied by 100 thus efficiency percentage is received.
Sunlight received per square meter = 1000 watts
Area of Solar panels (2) = 2000 (1000*2)
Maximum wattage = 400 watts
Efficiency percentage = 400/2000*100
Standard testing conditions measure the output of the solar panel during normal weather conditions in a particular area. But there are several other factors influencing the efficiency of solar panels.
What are the Factors Affecting Solar Panel Efficiency?
Solar panel efficiency isn’t solely dependent on the sun but there are many other factors affecting solar panel efficiency. Let’s learn about all these factors in detail.
1. Climatic Conditions
Another major impact on efficiency is due to climatic conditions. There is a misconception that production decreases during snowfall or winter, but this is not the case. Due to the reflective qualities of snow, the concentration of sunlight increases, thus improving solar irradiance. This is only possible if your solar panels are not buried under snow.
Where cold conditions benefit and increase efficiency extremely hot weather may decrease efficiency. Solar panels under extreme and strong sunlight cannot work efficiently and their efficiency even decreases with an increase after a certain temperature.
Solar panels have a lifespan of more than 20 years during which they are subjected to lots of internal and external conditions affecting their overall efficiency. In the meantime, panels work accurately and efficiently. But after years also they continue to generate electricity but each year some percentage of their efficiency will be lost. But experts say that solar panels work great as they age in comparison to when they were new. Well, this depends on the quality and type of solar panels you use.
Also See: Why Do Solar Panels Degrade?
3. Energy Conversion Efficiency
From the total amount of sunlight falling on solar panels, a certain percentage of it is converted by the panels. This percentage of conversion is known as energy conversion efficiency. Yes, not all sunlight that falls on the panels is converted into energy. In fact, this ratio is also influenced by factors like wavelength, reflection, and temperature.
The angle of placing the panels is equally important for increased or decreased efficiency. South-facing solar panels tend to be more efficient. However, depending on the location of your house, solar panels can be faced east or west. South-facing panels have the leverage to absorb sunlight till evenings and rays touch the panels more directly than other orientations. Overall, efficiency is influenced by their orientation along with the location of your house. This is one of the factors affecting solar panel efficiency.
Regular maintenance of solar panels is necessary for them to work properly. Without proper maintenance and regular check, up by experts, and replacement of small panel parts, if needed, efficiency will decrease over time. Regular system checks are involved in purchase agreements. Other than this, proper cleaning of the surface of solar panels also reduces their efficiency.
Also See: 3 Leading Types Of Solar PV System
Regular usage influences efficiency and causes it to degrade faster. Operations like monitoring and controlling the performances of solar panels influence their efficiency and help in retaining it for longer periods. Also, carrying out operations to improve the overall conditions of solar panels positively influences efficiency at large.
Sunlight is an essential ingredient, but extreme temperatures with excessively bright sun shining over the panels are of the least use. It is assumed that more sunlight means more power generation, but this is not the case. Extreme temperatures and sunlight harm the panels and their efficiency by shifting the properties of semiconductors that increase the current but decrease the voltage. It also is the reason for the reduced lifespan of modules and their components. Proper thermal management positively influences the efficiency of the modules.
Solar panels are made from silicon and doped in boron and phosphorus, which gives them negative and positive charges. These coatings make the surface shiny and reflective. But more reflection means less absorption, leading to less energy generation.
The efficiency of solar panels is susceptible to shading either partially or totally. It influences the overall capability of solar panels and the amount of energy they deliver. Series connection of solar panels enables them to generate higher voltage, thus is appropriate for electricity generation. But this is not applicable when cells are shaded as it would affect the current traveling through the entire module reducing the overall efficiency of the panels. To mitigate the loss, diodes are used and wired parallel to solar cells, which allows string connecting solar cells to generate electricity at reduced voltage.
This term covers snow, leaves, dirt, debris, animal droppings, and dust on the surface of solar panels. With the increase in soiling of solar panels, their overall performance decreases leading to reduced efficiency as a sufficient amount of sunlight cannot reach the surface of the panels.
11. Sun Intensity
Another factor affecting solar panel efficiency is the amount of radiation or solar energy falling on solar panels known as the intensity of the sun. Intensity is determined by the angle and location of the sun in the sky. The inclination and intensity of the sun are influenced by your region also, which overall influences the efficiency of solar panels.
Can You Increase the Efficiency of Solar Panels?
After learning about the possible reasons and factors responsible for the loss of efficiency of solar panels, many people consider it a timely process that is bound to happen. But there are some aware people like you who ask can you increase the efficiency of solar panels. To which I replied, yes, of course, it is possible. Here are the ways in how to improve solar panel efficiency?
1. Prefer High Quality Solar Panels
The efficiency of solar panels depends on the type of photovoltaic cells and technology. Presently, monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels are available. Mono panels have the highest efficiency which makes them a bit more expensive than poly panels that are slightly less efficient than monocrystalline panels. But thin-film panels are the least efficient yet the cheapest. So, the best way to get high efficiency from your solar panels is to get one with top efficiency ratings.
2. Go for Better Technology
After learning about factors affecting solar panel efficiency, it is better to know about ways to improve efficiency too. Not all panels are made with the same technology, but researchers have developed newer technologies for better and more efficient solar panels.
a) Half-cut cell: Traditionally used silicon cells are cut into two halves with a laser and then wired together. These cells are known as half-cut cells or twin cells. With this technology, both the durability and performance of the module is improved.
b) High-concentrated photovoltaic cells (CPV): Solar panels with CPV are manufactured with the principle of focusing sunlight onto extremely high-efficiency solar cells to reduce direct purchase costs. Average solar panels have the highest efficiency levels up to 22% but cells with concentrated photovoltaic cells can reach efficiency levels of 46%.
c) Integrated solar roofs: Traditional roofs are replaced with a seamless solar panels roof structure. This includes the installation of more panels within limited space that increases energy output.
d) Mono PERC modules: It is an advanced version of monocrystalline solar panels with a passivated layer added to the rear of the module. This layer allows more light absorption, further resulting in more power generation.
e) Multi-busbar technology: Busbars are silver strings running through solar panels carrying direct current (DC). Increasing the number of busbars reduces transportation time between ribbons of solar cells which further increases the output.
Also See: How Does Active Solar Energy Work?
3. Choose Trustworthy and Expert Installers
Improperly installed solar panels will logically have less or no power generation at all. Make sure to hire an expert installer for this purpose who understands the factors affecting the efficiency of solar panels and works accordingly. An expert will be aware of the proper angle and orientation of panels along with knowing how to fix structural issues if they arise during installation.
4. Allow Air Flow Gaps
To overcome the damage done by factors affecting solar panel efficiency try this method. Overheating is the killer of electrical appliances and a possible cause of reduced efficiency. The process of energy generation in solar panel systems is inversely proportional to the temperature of solar panels. Some surfaces like roofing sheets or tin sheds tend to heat up quickly, therefore, appropriate spacing must be maintained between the roof and panels. This will provide easy airflow and the panels will not get overheated.
5. Clean the Panels Properly
Since panels are the most essential part of the entire system, efficiency is influenced when they are unclean. Solar panels do not require frequent maintenance but careful cleaning once every 6 months or 1 year is mandatory. With this energy generation will improve drastically because water spots, dust, debris, and other external factors collected on panels reduce their efficiency.
Note: Make sure cleaning is done on days with normal temperatures when the panel temperature is not high otherwise it can lead to micro cracks. This will be the reason behind the huge efficiency loss.
6. Avoid Shadows
Full exposure for the max hours during the day is required for effective power generation which is brought down if panels are installed in shadowed areas. Therefore, before installation ensure there is no shadow from water tanks, pergolas, or other things on the roof.
Also See: What is Floating Solar Power Plant?
7. Choose Shade Tolerance Panels
In case it is not possible to avoid shadowed areas you have another option to maintain and increase the efficiency of the solar panel system. Choose panels with shading tolerance for optimum performance as they are manufactured for such situations.
8. Choose Right Wiring
There are 3 types of wiring for solar panels, namely parallel, series, and mix. A parallel connection increases the overall current, a series connection of solar panels increases overall voltage, and a mixed pattern of both connections gives you higher wattage. Choosing the right connection pattern will increase the overall efficiency of solar panels by providing the right amount of supply of voltage or current as required. It will help to overcome the factors affecting solar panel efficiency to a large extent.
Also Read: How to Wire a 5000 Watt Inverter?
9. Schedule Preventive Checks
For this purpose, engineers will check the modules and components to make sure they all are in good working condition. They are skilled in noticing any discrepancies leading to reduced efficiency in the panel output which may go unnoticed otherwise. On your end, you can do the following:
- Check power output through an online monitoring system, regularly.
- Keep track of daily energy produced by the system.
- Troubleshoot in case of minor issues.
- If any major issue occurs, contact the support team.
10. Leverage from Rebates
Governments offer tax rebates and credits to individuals, businesses, and industries at the state, local, and federal levels. Also, local utility houses may also offer incentives for new installations. You can increase the efficiency of your solar panel system by installing new or more panels and these rebate and incentive measures are useful.
11. Solar Concentrators
It is a device that helps better the concentration of absorbed solar energy by increasing concentration in smaller areas on the panels with the help of large mirrors. These results increased levels of efficiency resulting in more energy production.
Also See: BIPV vs BAPV
What Ways Leads to Solar Panel Efficiency Improvements Over Time?
You can increase the efficiency of solar panels by following the measures mentioned above. But maintaining this requires a better understanding of the ways leading to solar panel efficiency improvements over time. On industry levels, regular advances and improvements in photovoltaic technology over time are the main reason behind efficiency improvements over time. In recent years, the average conversion efficiency of solar panels has increased from 15% to more than 21%.
Since two main factors determining the efficiency of solar panels are: the efficiency of photovoltaic cells (based on silicon type and cell design), and total panel efficiency (based on configuration, panel size, and cell layout). In case you want to overcome efficiency loss over time, you can increase the panel size. It will create a large surface area for more sunlight absorption.
How Increasing Solar Panel Efficiency with Mirrors is Possible?
Among the factors affecting solar panel efficiency angle of the rays of the sun matters the most, here is how you can improve it with mirrors. Many solar modules use flat mirrors for increasing efficiency by focusing sunlight on the panels throughout the day. This is done in the following ways:
1. Redirect sunlight with mirrors: Place mirrors around the panels at such angles that sunlight is directed towards the panels. Track the position of the sun throughout the day and then place the mirrors at particular angles that work.
2. Sunlight works with mirrors: Due to the reflective surfaces of mirrors, sunlight bounces off and lands on the nearest solid material in front of them, solar panels. Ensure the mirrors are not placed under or near shadow.
3. Types of mirrors to use: For better and increased efficiency of panels, select the right type of mirrors.
- Use large mirrors, at least 2. This will help in better tracking of the sun throughout the day and will add more surface area for reflection.
- Use polished metals instead of mirrors if you are afraid of breakage.
- Decide the number and size of mirrors according to the size of the solar panel system.
Also Read: What are 4 Types of Solar Panel?
Are Mirrors Dangerous to Use for Redirecting Sunlight?
Yes, to some extent using mirrors can be dangerous if used without proper precautions. Here is a list of some common dangers of using mirrors with solar panels.
- Risk of potential harm to solar panels
- Possibility of breaking the mirrors
- Threat of fire
However, you can avoid these dangers to some extent in the following ways:
- Reflecting too much light on solar panels overheats them, thus raising their overall temperature. It overall affects the efficiency
- It is hard to avoid a situation where the mirrors could break because a falling branch, storm, or baseball can easily damage them. Thus, it is advised to check them regularly for any early signs of damage or cracks.
- Align mirrors carefully at such angles that the reflected light falls on solar panels and not on the house or grass. This will reduce the risk of fire.
Well, factors affecting solar panel efficiency are easy to notice and their impact from them can be reduced with proper measures. There are ways to improve solar panel efficiency because solar panels are here to stay, and it is better to maintain them accordingly.