With energy costs constantly rising and the threat of climate change a looming presence in everyone’s lives, people are constantly looking for ways to save money while also saving the environment. The various solutions involve the use of renewable, sustainable energy; these include hydroelectric power, geothermal power, and solar power.
All those solutions are feasible, but only solar power is practical for regular people. In fact, California regulators have issued a mandate stating that all new single family homes must have solar panels incorporated. This mandate goes into effect in 2020 and is expected to save $80 on the average utility bill. But how much power do solar panels produce? Is it enough for all the devices and appliances in the average home? Let’s take a closer look.
How Efficient are Solar Panels?
The efficiency of a solar panel refers to its ability to convert sunlight into electricity, the more efficient the panel, the more electricity it creates. In the 1950’s, the average solar panel array was only capable of converting 6% of sunlight energy into electricity. These days, the average home solar panel array can convert 15% of the sun’s energy into electricity, with the most efficient models being up to 22.5% efficient.
However, there are loss factors that can result in a slightly lower energy output than what is on the label. These include:
- Shading – shadows can prevent the panel from receiving the maximum amount of sunlight.
- Temperature – ironically, solar panels perform better at lower temperatures so higher temperatures mean lower efficiency
- Reflectivity – the solar panel will be more efficient if less light is reflected from it, highly efficient panels appear blue or blue-black
What Contributes to a Solar Panel’s Efficiency?
The photovoltaic cells of a solar panel convert the sunlight into electricity, so the more cells in a panel, the more efficient the panel will be. This means that larger solar panels are typically more efficient, but a panel’s efficiency rating is also determined by the quality of the panels as well as their number. Higher quality panels convert more of the sunlight into electricity.