With so many different types of solar panels available for purchase, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. The key to determining how much you will save with your solar energy system comes from the understanding of how a solar panel will perform. Solar panel efficiency is the most discussed topic in the solar business and often used to compare one panel to another. Some panel manufacturers go so far as to use efficiency to label their panel as the “best” in the industry. Which begs the question, how important is solar panel efficiency?
Along with solar panel ratings and power tolerance, Solar panel efficiency is one of several factors that represents how effectively a solar panel converts sunlight / solar radiation into electricity. A higher solar panel efficiency rating means a panel will produce more kilowatt-hours of energy per watt of power capacity. The bulk of traditional panels today range from a 15% to 17% efficiency rating whereas today’s most efficient commercially available solar panels have a solar panel efficiency just above 22%.
Solar panel performance improvement over time.
It is important to know that solar panel efficiency ratings are merely estimates and not guarantees. Lab tests provide a good starting point for understanding solar panel efficiency, but until the panels are operating on a large scale there’s no way of knowing exactly how well they will perform. In order for “high efficiency” panels to reach their maximum rates, they must be in optimal conditions (clean, full and direct sunlight, no shade, perfect tilt, angle, etc.), which can be impossible to achieve on every install. On average, “high efficiency” panels will still produce around 18-20% efficiency.
High-efficiency panels do not necessarily provide the best value. Increased power and efficiency also means an increase in panel price. So while you may use less solar panels and are saving on space, you are paying much more in upfront costs. That cost difference should be analyzed to determine if the value is justified over the lifespan of your solar energy system savings with the high-efficiency panels. Despite all the interesting technologies that go into making a panel more efficient, the only benefit of a more efficient panel is an increase in the production of electricity per square foot. In the case where one may have a small roof and does not have the space to install a sufficient amount of standard efficiency panels to offset energy usage, they may find it does indeed suit them best to use high efficiency panels.
There are pros and cons to both types of panels which heavily depend on budget, location and other preferences, but it’s more important to know what efficiency doesn’t get you. A better warranty, a better manufactured panel, lower failure rates, lower degredation, stronger frame, better components, etc. Nine kW is nine kW whether it comes from 25 360WPanasonic panel or 30 300W Silfab panels. It has been shown that it can be more cost efficient to install extra standard efficiency panel to make up production difference than to use all “high efficiency” panels.
Last, but not least, before you begin your journey into a solar energy system, it is imperative that you first take a look at the efficiency of your home and make sure you fully understand your home’s current energy usage and with all the information out there it’s understandable to feel uneasy about investing in the right solar system for your needs. Keep in mind that in most situations, and with the right provider guiding you, investing in solar power can be a simple, straight-forward, and painless process!