Solar panels and green energy sources are growing in popularity and relevance. As fossil fuels continue to increase in price and their dangers and adverse effects become more well-known, more and more people are making the switch to solar panels. Solar panels have been around for the last 60 years, but solar energy is a relatively new source of power for residential and commercial properties alike. Fortunately, though, solar energy and solar panels have not only improved in their efficiency in the last decade, they’ve also decreased in cost across the board. In today’s article, we’ll explore how solar panels have improved during the previous ten years.
How has solar efficiency improved?
Solar cells were first discovered and invented in the late 19th century. But these cells were rather primitive by today’s standards, and only boasted 1% efficiency. But in the mid-1950s, Bell Labs created the first ever silicon solar cell with a 6% efficiency rating. Solar energy has since then grown and evolved into the sophisticated panels we see today.
Now, panels can be manufactured at 30% efficiency, and average homeowners can enjoy panels with anywhere from 19 to 21% efficiency. The best part of increased efficiency ratings? Homeowners can produce up to 25% more electricity than the lower efficiency models from just ten years ago. That is a substantial jump in solar energy efficiency.
The future looks bright for solar panels. Recent studies indicate that researchers have created models that boast efficiency ratings of up to 46%. These high-efficiency models are still in the prototype stage. But if the recent past is any indicator, homeowners can expect to see even more significant increases in efficiency ratings as the solar energy market continues to mature and evolve.
Along with efficiency gains, solar panels have decreased in cost too.
An exceptionally positive development in solar energy in the last decade is the overall decrease in solar panel costs. Year over year, solar panels have decreased an average of 5%. While panels get more efficient, homeowners can expect to pay less for better working, solar energy models.
In 2008, a solar panel installation job would cost about 8.82 dollars per watt. But ten years later, solar panel producers have made substantial strides in the manufacturing process. The process is far more efficient and streamlined than just ten short years ago. Compared to 2008, solar panel installation costs have fallen by over 60%. Now, you can expect to pay around 3.14 dollars per watt.
Why have costs decreased over the last ten years? There are several notable reasons.
- LCDTVs, which utilize massive sheets of glass during the solar panel manufacturing process, bringing down the price.
- China’s expansion into raw material harvesting and manufacturing.
Solar panels have significantly improved in design and implementation over the past ten years.
Today, panels and their associated materials require less rewiring and hardware to install than in 2008. Before 2008, materials were cumbersome and needed multiple parts to install. Now, panels and equipment are much lighter than before. Solar panel energy systems can be installed in as little as one day, greatly reducing overall labor costs.
Also, solar panel manufacturers have improved on the traditional inverter. Before, the solar panel system was only as effective as the weakest panel in the rack because traditional inverters could only convert the energy current of all of the panels at the same time. But new panels now include microinverters instead.
Microinverters convert solar energy into electricity via each panel separately, so the efficiency of the entire systems is significantly improved.
But that’s not all. Battery systems have also been improved in the last ten years. Tesla, in particular, has introduced a new Powerwall system, making home battery systems now part of the mainstream.
Modern solar panels use different materials than panels from ten years ago.
Solar panels from ten years ago used silicon. But a new alternative to traditional silicon panels is cadmium telluride cells or CdTe. CdTe cells aren’t a new invention and were first discovered and created back in the mid-1950s. But, sixty years ago and up until very recently, CdTe cells were limited by a maximum output level known as the “one-volt limit.” At the time, it meant that CdTe cells couldn’t produce more than 900 millivolts of electricity in direct sunlight.
But in early 2016, researchers managed to break through the CdTe 900 millivolt ceiling. Scientists were able to achieve efficiency ratings for more than 22% with CdTe cells, and now, mass-produced CdTe cells are hitting the market. CdTe panels are projected to be the next big leap forward for solar energy. These panels are guaranteed to offer improved system performance at lower costs.
Although solar panels and technology have been around for many decades, it wasn’t until the last decade that gains in efficiency and improved systems and designs have really taken off. As homeowners gain more understanding of the importance and benefits of solar energy, the market will continue to meet demands with more sophisticated, cost-effective designs.
What’s even better for homeowners who wish to make the switch to solar energy? There are tons of solar installers, solar tax incentives and rebates homeowners can take advantage of today, that weren’t available ten years ago. With increased solar energy demand has come increased access to many professional solar panel installers across the country. State, federal, and local governments are also spurring the demand by creating ways that homeowners can lower their taxes after installing a new solar panel system.
Are you ready to explore your solar energy options? We’ll be happy to give you a detailed installation quote on a high-quality, clean and healthy solar energy system for your home.