As the solar maker First Solar is rolling out panels, scientists from both the company and its national renewable energy lab are continuing to test and refine the technology, called Cadmium Telluride. Historically, silicon panels have had higher efficiencies than cadmium telluride technologies, although the gap is closing. Today, silicon panels manufactured in industry can reach efficiency levels between 18% and 22%, and the solar maker First Solar has reported average efficiency levels of 18% for its new commercial panels. Solar panel efficiency usually provides a good indicator of performance, particularly since many of the higher-efficiency panels utilize higher-grade N-type silicon cells, which have better temperature coefficients and lower degradation in output over time. In ecological terms, higher efficiency usually means that the solar panel pays off its embodied energy — energy used in mining raw materials and manufacturing solar panels — in a shorter period.
Increased efficiency can lower solar costs to manufacturers
Increased efficiency can lower solar costs to manufacturers, retailers, and consumers, because fewer panels will be needed to deliver the same amount of energy. When we said that 30% of energy output is increased with the solar tracker, power output will be far higher with higher-efficiency panel cells. One major issue is efficiency: Solar panels only convert a tiny fraction of available solar power to useable power. Since solar typically accounts for a large portion of power generation on the afternoon grid, building more of them does not make much difference.
Power generators and consumers are most likely to adopt solar power
Power generators and consumers are most likely to adopt solar power if its produced energy is as cheap as, or cheaper than, other, usually nonrenewable forms of power, so any improvements to the existing design of solar cells would have to reduce the total cost in order for it to become widely used. Given its affordability and its renewable nature, solar is an attractive source of energy. New advances in technology in the past twenty years have encouraged this increased reliance on solar by driving down costs, and new technology developments promise to expand this use of solar power further, further driving down costs and increasing solar panel efficiency. While natural gas is still cheaper per kilowatt-hour than rooftop solar panels used today, the International Energy Agency says the best solar energy plan the world has ever seen, when implemented, is now cheaper than both gas and coal in most large markets worldwide.
Solar is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world
Solar is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world, according to Bloomberg, and generating energy with the sun will probably become the lowest-cost option for power worldwide in less than a decade. Working together, solar panels and battery storage could produce renewable power when sun power is at its highest in the daytime, and then release it as needed once the sun goes down. In addition to greatly improving solar panel efficiency, microinverter technology gives a homeowner the option of rerouting solar power from a local electric grid to the homes battery bank in their garage with a simple switch.
Now, a handful of companies are making significant progress in producing commercial-scale perovskite solar cells. Today, panels using cadmium telluride provide roughly 40% of the U.S. utility-scale market, about 5% of the worlds solar.