Which solar panels are the most efficient?

solar panel efficiency

Solar panel efficiency can be defined as a measure of the electricity produced in watts based on the amount of solar energy absorbed by solar cells. Today, there are thousands of solar panels available in the market and this presents a challenge to many solar buyers when they want to select the best solar panels that are suitable for them based on solar panel cost and design aspects of the solar PV project.

Solar panel efficiencies can range from as low as 10% to as high as over 20%. Cheaper thin-film solar panels can have efficiencies of below 10% while most Monocrystalline/polycrystalline panels will have a solar panel efficiency ranging between 13 to 15%. Premium solar panels from very well-known and established solar panel manufacturers such as SunPower, Panasonic, SolarWorld, Solaria, etc will have solar panel efficiencies ranging between 20% to 24%.

Solar panel efficiency and space requirements:

Since solar panel efficiency is a measure of the electrical output of specific solar panels versus solar irradiation hitting or being absorbed by the solar cells; the amount of space to install your solar panels is affected by the level of efficiency of the solar panels. Generally, the higher the efficiency, the less space is required to install the solar panels and vice-versa.

This means that you require less surface area for high-efficiency solar panels to produce the same amount of power as compared to low-efficiency solar panels. For example, a typical 20% efficient solar panel would convert 20% of the solar energy landing on its surface into electricity. On the other hand, a 15% efficient solar panel would convert 15% of the solar energy landing on its surface into electricity. This implies that for a 300 watts rated solar panel for example, with different efficiencies, you will need more 15% efficiency solar panels compared to 20% efficient solar panels because you need more surface area to produce the same amount of power as captured in the formula:

Efficiency % = Electricity produced (in watts) divided by Solar Energy Absorbed

Types of solar panels and their efficiencies

Many thin-film solar panels have lower efficiencies and hence are widely used in commercial projects since they require a big surface area, are cost-effective and are not bulky in nature. Thin-film solar panels are made with lower efficiency products such as amorphous silicon; cadmium telluride etc and cheaper versions have efficiencies of less than 10%. However, today with the advancement of solar PV technology, high-efficiency thin-film solar panels (about 20%) are available but are costly because higher efficiencies require technologies that are harder to produce at scale and at an affordable cost.

A high number of monocrystalline/polycrystalline solar panels have high solar efficiencies compared to thin-film because they are made of high-efficiency materials (e.g. silicon). Solar panel efficiencies of these types of solar panels can range between13% to 24% and efficiencies continue to improve because of research and development (R&D) efforts in this space.

So, should you only consider solar panel efficiency when selecting your best solar panels?

It is very easy to get confused about which solar panels are the best for you, but that depends on factors such as affordability and availability of space that we try to capture here.

  • Affordability: Solar panels with higher efficiencies are in many cases from premium solar companies which means they are made by some of the best solar panel manufacturers in the world that employ innovation and have invested a lot of capital in producing very high quality (premium) solar panels. Such solar panels are definitely recommended to enhance system reliability and durability due to the manufacturing engineering that is employed in producing such solar panels. However, if for affordability reasons, you are unable to get premium panels; there are economy & standard solar panels whose solar efficiency might not cater to all the system reliability issues. For example, you might not get product warranties that are equal to the lifespan of your solar panels. Also, this might affect the bankability of your project if you are looking for a loan to develop your project thus calling for high-interest rates. Many premium solar panel manufacturers are listed on a stock exchange and have a strong balance sheet and this enhances the bankability. However, depending on your budget there will always be a trade-off for using economy, standard or premium solar panels.
  • Availability of space: If you have a good amount of space, using lower efficiency solar panels will be ideal because that means you will reduce the overall cost of going solar and vice-versa. However, if reducing your carbon footprint is one of the reasons for installing solar panels, then perhaps this will not be ideal because lower efficiencies call for the installation of many solar panels compared with when installing high efficient solar panels. Monocrystalline/polycrystalline PV technologies are good for places limited in space especially in the residential sector while thin-film solar technologies are good for applications where space may not be a limiting factor to going solar.

If you are interested in going solar but don’t know where to start, please check this online solar marketplace which is a one-stop place for solar information and have a lidar powered solar panel cost calculator that helps you to determine your solar costs and savings. Get started today with EnergySage and learn more.

You can also check out Amazon.com for solar panels deals.

SunPower Solar Panels Review – Why SunPower has some of the best solar panels in the solar PV market?

SunPower Solar Panels Review

Not all solar panels are created equal and when it comes to finding the right solar for your home or business you want to select the best equipment that is worth your money.

You also want to make sure that you will get a return on investment for the type of solar panels that you are planning to install on your roof or in the space available.

You may want to research about solar panels from SunPower and this SunPower solar panels review could be great start for you.

SunPower Solar Panels Review

SunPower is one of the leading solar panels manufacturers in the world and has been manufacturing solar PV panels for the last 33 years with its global headquarters based in San Jose, California. It has offices in North America, Europe, Australia, Africa and Asia. Its solar panels have one of the highest solar panel efficiency in the world (SunPower® Maxeon® cell technology).

Solar panels from SunPower are some of the best in the world because of their high efficiency and high reliability compared to most panels in the market today. SunPower also has been in the solar business for decades and has a leading role when it comes to solar innovation and solar manufacturing best practices.

SunPower solar panels come with the best product warranty of up to the lifespan of its solar panels which is about 25 years. This compared to conventional solar panels is way high and differentiates itself from its competition. Normally, most solar panel manufacturers offer product warranties of between 10 to 15 years.

Why SunPower stands out in the solar market?

Solar panels from SunPower have the highest solar panel efficiency in the market. Solar panel efficiency is usually expressed as a percentage (%) and it is the ability of a solar panel to convert sunlight into electricity. High efficiency solar panels even though a little bit expensive than low efficiency solar panels; require less space because the high the efficiency, the fewer solar panels are needed to produce solar power and vice-versa.

SunPower solar panels produce 25-39% more solar energy compared to most solar panels in the market. Solar panel efficiency from SunPower ranges between 22.4% – 22.9% and hence represents the highest reported efficiencies in the solar industry for the monocrystalline/polycrystalline PV technology. For example, SunPower® X-Series panels deliver 38% more power while SunPower® E-Series panels deliver 31% more power compared to conventional solar panels from other market players.

High solar panel efficiencies come handy for houses or businesses that want to go solar, but have no enough roof space. Such houses or businesses may want to consider installing high efficiency solar panels such as those from SunPower in order to reduce space requirements.

Secondly, SunPower has invested a lot in research and development (R&D) and have proved to have the most durable solar panels in the market. As such, solar panels from SunPower have the longest product warranties compared to other solar manufacturers. SunPower panels average only 0.25% power loss per year over the first 25 years and it predicts its future PV panels will have a useful life of more than 40 years. In addition, SunPower panels ranked #1 in Fraunhofer durability testing. SunPower claim that one out of every 20,000 panels has been returned under warranty.

Third, SunPower Corporation is listed in the NASDAQ: SPWR stock exchange and is known to design or manufacture the highest efficiency solar panels with the highest reliability in the market today. SunPower caters for all market segments in the solar industry including residential, business, government and utility-scale PV systems.

Lastly, SunPower has a long track record in the solar panels manufacturing with a total solar energy generated from its solar panels of over 18 million megawatt hour (MWh). When it comes to research and development, SunPower has more than 750 patents for solar technology and has invested heavily in its R&D programs to improve solar panels efficiency, quality and the general performance of its solar panels.

Finding the right SunPower solar panels for your home or business

With this background, you’re probably interested in researching more about SunPower solar panels to find out what solar panel model will be the right one for your home or business. When it comes to solar panels and technology, SunPower has the following solar PV models for your review i.e.

  • SunPower X-Series Solar Panels
  • SunPower E-Series Solar Panels
  • SunPower P-Series Solar Panels

These PV technologies come with different solar solutions, including, but not limited to:

For more details, you may want to visit SunPower’s website. If you want to make comparisons with other solar brands, visit EnergySage to compare the pricing, solar panel efficiency or just the best solar panels that you are able to afford based on your specific situation.

Finding the right solar for you may not be as easy as it sounds and may be affected by several factors, including but not limited to affordability, size of the PV system, solar potential, financing as well as the size of space available to install your solar panels. Other site-specific parameters such as shading may affect your solar PV decision and you may want to use online solar tools such as a solar panel cost calculator to check for any obstructions or shading that will affect you solar potential.

Such a solar panel cost calculator uses LIDAR technology to simplify the process of determining your site-specific solar potential, costs and solar savings that can be achieved when you install solar panels on your rooftop.

Join EnergySage today and start your research process aided with online tools that will help you make more informed decisions, including but not limited to knowing your solar potential, which solar panels will be best for you, how many solar panels you need to go solar and determine any shading that might be obstructing your rooftop.

How to find the right solar for you.

going solar

Going solar is not as easy as it may seem because you want to make sure you are getting the right solar for your home or business, based on your specific situation. Every home or business is different and you can only get what will be useful to you in the long-term and what is within your budget.

Therefore, a solar developer will design a solar PV system that caters for your energy needs and delivers the savings that you are likely to achieve based on site-specific parameters that are out of your control.

If your house or business is in a location with a good solar resource or potential and you want to achieve more savings or even going 100% solar is possible, depending on how much you want to invest. It all depends on finding the right size or number of solar panels based on your current energy consumption as well as how much you are able to afford.

Going solar with online tools

Nowadays, because of the advancement of technology in the software space, finding these numbers has become very easier because such numbers are a click away and use site-specific data to determine them. Online solar tools developed in partnership with government and private sector makes it possible to just type the address of your location to obtain information that you just need and get well-equipped to go solar with no sales pitch, but just numbers that show you whether your decision is good for you or not.

Solar questions that you may have, including but not limited to: how many solar panels do I need? Are solar panels worth it?, how much can I save with going solar, what financing packages are good for you and many more questions can be answered through using these tools. Hence, understanding and awareness about going solar are made easier and any doubts that you may have might be clarified easily without the need to make any phone calls.

So, while using these online solar tools, what questions should you be asking?

You probably have questions about your specific situation about going solar such as the above-aforementioned questions in many cases relating to savings and costs of going solar. However, you may need to ask some extra questions relating to the type of solar PV technology, financing, which solar installer to go consider for installation, and how to get the most energy from your solar panels once installed. These additional aspects of going solar are explained below for your perusal:

1. Type of PV technology

  • Knowing the type of PV technology to install in your house or business is important because solar panels are not equal based on different technological aspects, solar brand, warranty, quality and so on.
  • A more in-depth article that captures these aspects in detail can be obtained here. Although, you want to make sure that you are using a PV technology will the right range of solar efficiencies, a solar brand with a good reputation when it comes to quality and that will be in existence to honor your product and performance warranties at the expected time.
  • Product warranties range between 10 to 15 years while performance warranties are granted at the duration of the life span of the equipment, normally about 20-25 years depending on the brand you decide to go with.
  • There are different types of solar panels including monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film solar panels and all these have different solar efficiencies and specific parameters such as weight/densities, etc which you may want to consider when selecting or being advised by a solar professional based on the design of your PV system.

2. Solar Financing

  • Once you have decided on the solar panels you want for your house or business and taking into consideration the design and size aspects of your system; you probably want to look into the financial aspects of the system. How you want to finance will depend on how much you can afford and whether you are willing to take a loan, pay for cash or enter into a power purchase agreement with the solar provider.
  • You might have used cash or loan financing packages before, however, you might not have entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) which means you are entering into a contractual agreement with a particular solar provider to buy solar power at an agreed power rate that is usually slightly lower than your utility rate and for a specified period. The advantage of a PPA rate is that you don’t have to buy solar panels to go solar, but your solar provider does and you only pay the amount of solar you use charged at a specific rate per kilowatt-hour. Most PPA structures will allow you to go solar with no money down (or zero down-payment) and this helps to overcome the high initial cost of a PV system. Check this article to learn more about different financing models to help you go solar with the right package that suits you.

3. The right Installer

  • Finding the right solar installer will make sure that your PV system is well installed, maintained and meets all licensing/regulatory requirements in your local area. You want to ensure that your system is designed and maintained by well-trained professionals and who have a track record of installing systems without failure and following the specific laws and regulations set in your local area.
  • A good place to start is to read online reviews about a particular solar installer, but you probably might not find these reviews or perhaps there are none. Use of online solar tools may be a better place to start, because not only do you get multiple solar quotes from different solar installers, but also presented with a platform that has already pre-screened installers based on experience, track record and the various solar installation certifications that they have.
  • This way you are able to compare apples to apples using a set criteria and their solar quotes.

Join EnergySage today to learn more about how to find the right solar for you!

  • EnergySage is one of the online solar tools that not only shows you the numbers of how much you can save with solar but answers all the questions captured in this article in more detail and that is specific to your house or business because you input your physical address giving you a number that has been collected using LIDAR technology.
  • A recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found out that PV installers using platforms like the EnergySage bid $0.24 per watt lower because of increased solar installer competition.
  • When you create an account with either EnergySage; we may get a small commission to help support the work of reneenergy.com
  • Join EnergySage today and get started with determining how much you can save using a solar panel cost calculator. 

Solar Panels Review – First Solar Thin-film Solar Panels

solar panels review

Solar Panels Review – First Solar Thin-film Solar Panels

First Solar Inc is a solar PV manufacturing company based in the United States with manufacturing plants in Malaysia, Vietnam and USA.

First Solar specializes in the development and manufacturing of thin-film photovoltaic modules ranging from 60 to 92.5 Wp. First Solar also provides support services, including finance, construction, maintenance and end-of-life panel recycling for utility scale PV power projects.

When it comes to thin-film solar panels, First Solar uses cadmium telluride (CdTe) as a semiconductor to produce CdTe thin-film solar panels and has a good track record as a market leader with a market share of about 50%.

Thin-film solar panels have been competing very well with the conventional crystalline silicon technology since 2009 when First Solar became the first solar panel manufacturing company to lower its manufacturing cost to $1per watt with CdTe solar panels with an efficiency of about 14%.

By 2015, First Solar had managed to reduce the cost of its CdTe modules with 16% efficiency to a manufacturing cost below USD $0.46/Watt. Also First Solar continues to develop thin-film solar panels with high efficiencies ranging between 16.1% to 22.1% conversion efficiency. The record 22.1% conversion efficiency was reported in 2016.

What makes thin-film solar panels from First Solar some of the best solar panels in the market?

1. First solar is known to have a strong and robust quality control system for producing its CdTE thin-film solar panels and has test programs and quality management systems in place to ensure their modules comply with the required qualification standards.

2. First Solar is listed on the NASDAQ Global select market under the symbol “FSLR” since its initial public offering in November 2006. In 2009, it common stock was added to the S&P 500 index and has a strong balance compared to other solar companies in the USA.

3. First solar continues to invest heavily on its research and development(R&D) program to improve the quality and efficiencies of its CdTE thin-film solar panels. Also R&D programs will enable it to continue to reduce the cost of its thin-film solar panels.

4. First solar is one of the solar manufacturing companies that has a solar module collection and recycling program which helps it to recover certain raw materials and components for re-use in its manufacturing program. By recycling, it reduces its environmental footprint or environmental impact associated with its modules at the end of their useful life. First Solar states that approximately 90% of each collected First Solar module can be recycled into materials for re-use.

5. First Solar has a fully integrated business model that allows them to include project development; Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) services as well as operation and maintenance (O&M) services that enables them to provide turnkey PV solar power systems and solar solutions.

6. First Solar relies on automated manufacturing processes enhancing the reliability of the quality of its solar modules and offers 25 years performance warranties and 10 year product warranties for their Series 4 and Series 6 PV modules.

The above factors makes thin-film solar panels from First Solar, some of the best in the country based on the article “Important things to consider when choosing your solar panels for home.”

This is just a short summary about thin-film solar panels from First Solar, INC, to learn more about this company and others, you can join EnergySage or Pick My Solar & start using their online tools e.g. the solar panel cost calculator to determine your solar panel cost and how much you can save with solar. Here you will also get the latest information about this solar company.

Going solar with thin-film solar panels

thin-film solar panels

As the solar PV technology continues to advance, a lot of solar innovations are being invented in the solar market space, including but not limited to online solar tools, low cost solar panels and how to make solar panels lighter for the roof while still maintaining their durability.

Innovations such as thin-film solar panels have continued to help reduce the cost of solar panels as captured in this article. Thin-film solar panels are some of the low cost solar panels that have been developed with public-private partnerships to help innovate better while increasing the rate of adoption of solar PV.

Thin-film solar panels and R&D

Thin-film solar PV was developed through a research & development (R&D) partnership between the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the private sector, namely, three large thin-film manufacturers: First Solar in CdTe, Global Solar in CIGS, and United Solar Ovonic (Uni-Solar) in a-Si.

The project saw the development of thin-film PV technologies or semi-conductor materials i.e. amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) and its alloys. The main idea or goal of this research effort was to develop solar PV innovations that are cost effective in the long-term while improving the performance for PV type solar technologies that are 15% efficient with a 30-year lifetime or lifespan.

Following this R&D support with the government, First Solar (CdTe) was very successful when it comes to the commercialization of thin-film solar panels (of the CdTe type).

First Solar was able to develop a new solar cell coater process that reduced maintenance costs by enhancing material utilization rates and automating the process of production hence improving productivity by the year 2003. In 2009, First solar was able to reduce their production cost from $1.08 per watt in 2008 to $0.89 cents per watt.

First Solar is the top thin-film solar manufacturer

Today, First Solar is the top thin-film solar manufacturer and dominates the CdTe space targeting the commercial sector because of the low cost solar installations that can be afforded with thin-film solar. Also, thin-film solar stands out from the standard silicon PV panels because of their more appealing and visually exciting designs such as their frame less, glass on glass model and they are the lightest PV cell that you can find in today’s PV market .

So, what is the main advantages of thin-film solar over the standard solar PV crystalline (monocrystalline or polycrystalline)?

Because thin-film solar panels require less silicon during their manufacturing than crystalline-based solar cells; their production cost is lower and hence this makes them cheaper in the marketplace.

However, even though thin-film solar panels are cheaper than their counterparts; they require a lot of space and hence in the past they have been used in the commercial sector than in the residential sector because of their low solar panel inefficiencies of around 13%. Although, recently new thin-film solar panels were developed last year by Solar Frontier which set a new efficiency record for its Copper/Indium/Selenium (CIS) based cell technology.

The company worked with the Japanese Government’s Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to achieve a conversion efficiency of 22.9% on a 1cm² cell. This could probably allow the thin-film solar panels to start been used widely in the residential sector and hence help to reduce the solar panel cost.

This is just a short summary about the thin-film solar panels, to learn more about these types of solar panels, you can join EnergySage or Pick My Solar & start using their online tools e.g. the solar panel cost calculator to determine your solar panel cost and how much you can save with solar.  Here you will also get the latest information about this new solar PV technology. 






Important things to consider when choosing your solar panels for home

solar panels for home

When selecting your solar panels for home it is worth it to conduct a small research to determine the type and the brand of solar panels in question because not all solar panels are equal. Today, there are so many players in the solar manufacturing industry and it is worthwhile to take some time to assess the different solar brands that are out there in the market.

Since, there are so many solar panel brands in the market, this article only attempts to list a few important things that you may want to consider to determine the best solar panels for your home.

Currently, a lot of solar panels are manufactured in various countries, including but not limited to China, USA, Germany, Japan, Mexico Philippines, India, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brazil.  However, most solar manufacturing is done in China with two-thirds of the world’s solar production capacity while half of the world’s new solar panels are being bought in China. Also, it is projected that in the coming years, China and the rest of Asia will have 77% of all PV (photovoltaic) solar panel manufacturing. In addition, a report conducted in 2015 by the GTM research saw U.S. as a top destination for solar panel manufacturers. The solar analysts pointed out that U.S. ranked higher than any other high-cost country for solar panel manufacturers because of its robust domestic demand and access to other markets globally.

So, why should you consider the solar panel brand when selecting your best solar panels for home?

Not all solar panels are manufactured equal and this affects the quality of your solar panel which in return affects the overall performance of your PV system as well as the long-term reliability of your solar panels. This is because factors such as capital investment, use of sophisticated manufacturing techniques such as use of robotics, research and development and application of robust quality control systems; have a huge impact on the end product (solar panels) being manufactured. In addition, the type of raw materials such as silicon and other materials that are used to make solar panels will also affect the performance of solar panels.

Important things to consider when choosing the best solar panels:

In today’s solar market, there are many types of solar cell technologies, including monocrystalline, polycrystalline and CIGS solar cells, but this article will not conduct an analysis of these technologies. For more details about this type of solar cells, please check this solar panels review article that explains them in detail. The following factors will affect whether you are purchasing the best solar panels for your PV system:

1. Solar manufacturers should be able to honor their warranties for the warranted life of a solar panel (usually 25 years). Solar panels come with two types of warranties: a performance and equipment guarantee. Solar performance warranty guarantees that the solar panels in question can produce upto 80% of their original capacity after 25 years (the lifespan of many solar panels). With performance warranty, a specific solar manufacturer tells the consumer that you can trust their equipment and it will not degrade too quickly. On the other hand, a solar panel’s materials warranty or equipment warranty show that a particular solar panel will be replaced in the event of system failure that could result from material/manufacturing defects or even environmental issues.

2. The best solar panel brands will manufacture their solar panels with the highest grade of silicon. Such solar panel manufacturers will invest heavily in research and development while using highly advanced robotic processors to make their solar panels while employing some of the best quality control systems. Such solar brands will produce highly reliable solar panels that are high performing and will have trust for their solar panels with the best solar warranties in the market. Solar panels will come with different ratings labeled on them including but not limited to solar panels efficiency, temperature coefficients, power outputs etc. Checking these parameters is the best starting point to help you determine which solar panels are good for you based on your system needs.

3. Solar manufacturers that invest heavily on R&D may be able to offer the best solar warranties because of the use of the latest innovative solar cell technology that is able to determine the best solar panels in terms of increaased solar module power output, high system reliability and outstanding low irradiance performance. The best solar panels are able to withstand harsh environmental conditions such as heavy snow load, high temperatures etc.

4. The best solar manufacturers will have many years of operation at least over 5 years or more. They will either be publicly listed on a stock exchange or have a strong and stable balance sheet. Such companies may have a high degree of vertical integration and possess a good track record of great performance in the industry in terms of where their solar panels have been installed or deployed, their reliability and performance. With a long-term track record, it means the company is financially capable or bankable and will be around for years or decades to honor the warranties placed on their solar panels.

5. Also, it is a fact that selecting the best solar panels can be a daunting challenge and online solar marketplaces like the EnergySage which is one of the most trusted solar marketplaces in the USA has developed a proprietary system for solar panels that is able to rank solar panels from different solar manufacturers based on their solar PV’s system performance, quality, durability and warranties. This ranking ranges from Economy on the low end to Premium Plus on the high end. For more details, please check this article titled “how to determine the best solar panels for your home installation.”

To learn more about the best solar panels for your home, join EnergySage or Pick My Solar & use online tools e.g.  the solar panel cost calculator :

By joining these online solar market places you will receive multiple solar panel quotes from different solar panel installers that work with different solar manufacturers. Also, in their online solar platform you will be able to compare prices, solar panels efficiencies from different brands and warranties of different solar PV brands. Join EnergySage and Pick My Solar today to learn more.