What are the most efficient solar panels that you should take into account when making your photovoltaic installation?
You may have heard the term “efficiency” a lot when talking about solar panels . It sure sounds like a good thing to you, but what exactly is solar panel efficiency? Higher efficiency means more energy , which in turn means more savings .
The most efficient solar panels that you should consider for your photovoltaic installation
Although buying the most efficient solar panels available on the market may seem like a great idea, you may still be surprised to discover that, most of the time, buying the most efficient panels or those that appear in the usual lists as the most efficient, is not the best option from an economic point of view, since its costs are totally out of the market and the investment/savings ratio does not compensate its high cost.
At Cambio Energético we have been working with solar panels for more than 10 years and throughout all this time we have been able to verify how the efficiency/price ratio does not always pay off, that is why we want to share with you all this accumulated experience so that you can choose the type of panel solar that best suits your needs. The efficiency of a solar panel is paid for, but that does not mean that the most efficient panels are always the best choice.
In this article we present high-efficiency solar panels at reasonable market prices that you should take into account for your photovoltaic installation, whether you are looking for the highest efficiency or if you need the best efficiency at the best price . But first, let’s see what efficiency is all about.
What is the efficiency of a solar panel?
Solar panels are made up of solar cells linked together. These cells are what actually convert sunlight into electricity. When sunlight hits the panels, the light energy is captured and converted into electrical energy that you can use to power your home or business. Therefore, the efficiency of a solar panel is simply the percentage of sunlight that reaches the solar panel and is converted into usable electricity .
Let’s take an example. Let’s say the sun projects the equivalent of 1 kilowatt (kW) or 1000 watts onto your solar panel. It converts that energy into 200 watts of electricity that you can use to power your home or business. Based on this, we would say that this solar panel would have an efficiency of 20%.
Photovoltaic modules have come a long way since the 1960s, when the first solar panels reached a maximum efficiency of 14%. Currently, we can distinguish between:
- Standard Efficiency Panels . They include most current solar panels and have an efficiency of between 17% and 18%.
- High efficiency panels . Its efficiency can range between 19% and 23%.
And why are solar panels not 100% efficient? The efficiency of a solar panel is limited by the type of energy the sun produces . This energy is found in a broad spectrum. Just as only a tiny fraction of this energy is visible to humans, current technology allows only a portion of the sunlight spectrum to be converted into electricity using solar panels. The research and development teams of solar panel manufacturers are continuously working to harness a higher percentage of energy in that spectrum, which would lead to greater efficiency of your panels.
What are the high-efficiency solar panels that you should consider?
When we talk about efficiency, we must also take into account other elements such as the brand and the guarantee of the solar panels, since it is a long-term investment. Something we have talked about a lot in this blog.
As a result of the experience of working with different manufacturers over the years, we would basically highlight two brands with their solar panel models that are an ideal option if you are looking for high efficiency for your photovoltaic self-consumption. We are talking about SunPower and Canadian Solar. Two brands that for us stand out for their efficiency and quality as well as for the consolidated guarantees they offer.
If what you are looking for is the greatest possible efficiency within affordable prices, for example, because you have a reduced space to place your solar panels, our suggestion would be to bet on the Sunpower Maxeon brand, which has been leading the efficiency classification in panels for years. solar.
Among the models offered by this brand, we highlight, on the one hand, the SunPower Maxeon 3 monocrystalline silicon solar panel. Based on Gen 3 high-performance IBC cell technology, the new 104-cell format further increases power output and tops the range with an impressive 22.6% peak efficiency , making it the #1 residential solar panel. most efficient in the world.
On the other hand, the SunPower Maxeon 5 AC model , designed in such a way that the entire front surface of the solar cells captures solar radiation . Although it has a lower efficiency than the previous model (21.5%), it incorporates an Enphase IQ7A microinverter that allows each solar panel to work independently. This facilitates the conversion of direct current into alternating current in the same location of the panel , thus reducing the losses that occur in this process. In addition, it offers the possibility to monitor and share the performance of your installation , through the Enphase Enlighten application .
Both models carry a 25-year combined power and product limited warranty , one of the longest on the market. And they can get up to 60% more energy during their useful life , compared to conventional panels.
The main con would be its price . Of course, all advances have their cost. But considering that solar power is a long-term investment, the higher price also equates to better performance, higher reliability, and more power generation over the life of the system.
So this option will suit you, as we said, in cases where you have limited space for the photovoltaic installation and, therefore, opt for maximum efficiency panels; or when the economic issue is not a problem.
If the space you have and your energy needs allow it, our recommendation would be to use solar panels from the manufacturer Canadian Solar.
Within the Hiku series of this manufacturer, the two solar panels that we recommend would be the Canadian Solar 450 Wp and Canadian Solar 490 Wp.
Both are split cell monocrystalline silicon Perc solar panels. They are boards with high efficiency and technology that can provide 26% more power than conventional modules and higher performance , thanks to the lower operating temperature.
The fact of using split cell technology allows them to improve performance with shadows, while generating fewer losses and less chance of hot spots , given the low current intensity in which they work. In turn, they minimize micro-breaks and are prepared to withstand heavy snow loads.
Having a solvent and prestigious manufacturer such as Canadian Solar, offers you guarantees on photovoltaic production at 80% for 25 years . Regarding the product and its components , for the 450 Wp Canadian Solar panels the guarantee is 10 years, while for the 490 Wp panels this guarantee is extended to 12 years .
Although the Canadian Solar have a lower percentage of efficiency than the SunPower Maxeon, they are much more affordable in terms of price , being more than half the price of the SunPower.
Factors Affecting Solar Panel Efficiency
The solar panel efficiency rating you’ll see advertised on the manufacturer’s website or on the solar panel specification sheet will not always be the actual efficiency level of your solar panels , once they are installed. And this is because the number announced by the manufacturer is the efficiency of the panel in standard measurement conditions. (irradiance of 800 W/m2, spectral distribution AM 1.5 and cell temperature of 20 °C). These are laboratory controlled conditions that are held constant throughout the industry to account for any potential variables. Ratings and measurements taken under standard test conditions make it easy to compare products, but these conditions are not always replicated in the real world.
Some of the factors that could cause your solar panels to produce less electricity than the spec sheet predicts are:
It is the amount of solar energy that an area receives . When sunlight is projected on your solar panels, part of that energy is absorbed and transformed into useful electricity, and is reflected by the panel. The lower the reflected energy and, therefore, the greater the absorbed energy, the more electricity your solar panels will produce. Variations in solar irradiation may be due to: the inclination of the panels; to seasonal variations in the location of the sun in the sky (more direct sunlight in summer than in winter); to weather patterns (clouds); or in the shade from trees, buildings, exhaust fans, or even nearby mountains or hills, which can reduce your solar system’s output by blocking sunlight from reaching the solar panels.
Maybe you think that summer is the time of year when your panels are most efficient. However, heat negatively affects solar panels, causing their performance to drop and, therefore, they produce less electricity. This is because as the temperature increases , your solar panels generate less voltage and are less efficient. Hence, cooler temperatures favor the efficiency of the solar panel.
Dust and other dirt
Anything that blocks sunlight will reduce the output of your solar panels . A thick buildup of dust and dirt , especially if you live in a dusty, drought-prone area, can cause enough blockage to negatively affect your solar system’s output. Depending on the thickness of this layer of dirt and how often your area receives rain, you may want to clean your solar panels.
The type of solar technology we install can also influence efficiency. Let’s give some examples. Monocrystalline silicon panels have relatively higher efficiency than polycrystalline silicon panels. This is due to how electrons flow through cells due to their uniform composition.
In turn, the association of wires in a solar panel that trap and transmit electricity also influence efficiency. And bifacial solar panels that can absorb light on both sides, the back and the front of the panel, have higher power generation rates and efficiency ratings than conventional solar panels. This difference is that solar panels that have multi-junction cells can absorb various wavelengths of light, increasing their efficiency.
Advantages of high efficiency solar panels
Among the benefits that betting on high-efficiency solar panels can bring you, the ability to generate more electricity during the useful life of the solar installation stands out. In other words, the degradation process in the transformation of sunlight into useful energy for consumption will be less than in conventional models. Therefore, they can generate more energy over time than standard efficiency panels.
In turn, high-efficiency solar panels allow more energy to be generated per square meter . This is especially important when you have space limitations on your roof or when you want more capacity on any roof.
In environmental terms, higher efficiency generally means that a solar panel will recover the embodied energy (energy used to extract the raw materials and make the solar panel) in less time . According to a detailed life cycle analysis, most silicon-based solar panels already pay back the embodied energy in two years, high-efficiency ones can do so in less than a year and a half.
Solar panel efficiency generally gives a good indication of performance , especially since many high-efficiency panels use higher grade N-type silicon cells with improved temperature coefficient and less degradation over time.
In turn, as we indicated, high-efficiency solar panels offer superior guarantees than those with standard efficiency. Some SunPower manufacturers even offer warranties with 90% or more retained power after 25 years of use .
The big drawback of high efficiency
Although there are many advantages offered by high-efficiency solar panels, currently, the main drawback of this technology is its price . It is estimated that the cost of these panels can be between 1.5 and 2 times more expensive than solar panels with standard efficiency.
However, this trend appears to be beginning to change. Chinese solar energy manufacturing giants such as Canadian Solar are beginning to offer panels with efficiency ratings greater than 20%, for a more competitive price than other high-efficiency panel brands.
Should I wait for more efficient panels before switching to photovoltaic self-consumption?
The answer would be a resounding No! The idea that current technology is not efficient enough may come from the news that we are bombarded with stories about a new solar cell that exceeded 40% efficiency. Unfortunately, this kind of news can make people think that we are ready for a new breakthrough and that it is better to wait instead of going solar today.
The last 80 years of solar history are marked by rare and tiny increases in panel efficiency. Since the solar cell created by the manufacturer Hoffman Electronics in 1960, after painstaking and relentless research and development, we have not come very far; which shows how difficult it is to increase the efficiency of solar cells. So if you’re expecting a big jump in efficiency, you better sit back because it can take a long time .
And if we take into account that the price of electricity will continue to rise, you may be missing out on the opportunity to start saving with clean energy. The profits that you would make with these future panels will not compensate for the years of free energy that you may be losing .
Is it always better to install high-efficiency solar panels?
As we said, the more efficient your solar panels are, the more electricity your system will produce ; but they will also be more expensive . Installing panels with higher efficiency means that you will need fewer panels to meet your electricity needs.
This can be useful in case of space problems for the installation, when you can only fit a limited number of panels that do not allow you to meet your energy needs.
In case you do not have space problems for your installation, normally, a greater number of less efficient panels will be cheaper than a smaller number of high efficiency panels ; even if the total size of the system is the same.
So unless you really need that extra that high efficiency offers you, the recommendation would be to bet on less efficient panels , at least until the prices of the most efficient ones drop. Hence, Canadian Solar is, in terms of quality-price, the best bet in high-efficiency panels.
We encourage you if you have any questions regarding solar panels or any other component of a photovoltaic installation, contact us without obligation. We can advise you for free on the main brands on the market. And if you are thinking of switching to photovoltaic self-consumption, ask us for a quote without commitment. We can do the necessary preliminary study to know the type of installation you need.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE EFFICIENCY OF SOLAR PANELS
What is the efficiency of a solar panel?
The efficiency of a solar panel is the percentage of sunlight that reaches the panel and is converted into usable electricity.
What are the most efficient solar panels?
Due to their efficiency/price ratio, we will basically highlight two: The SunPower Maxeon (models 3 and 5) and the Canadian Solar Hiku and Hiku 5 in their 450Wp and 490 Wp models, respectively.
What factors affect the efficiency of a solar panel?
Among the elements that can influence the efficiency of a solar panel are: solar irradiation, temperature, dirt and the technology used.
Advantages and disadvantages of high efficiency solar panels
The main advantage is the possibility of generating more energy per square meter. Its main drawback is its price, which can be 1.5 or even 2 times higher than that of standard solar panels. This means that sometimes they are not the most profitable solar panels, from an economic point of view, to install.
Should I wait for new, more efficient solar panels to come out?
No. Technological advances that lead to much greater efficiency may still take many years. The higher performance that greater efficiencies to come will offer you, does not compensate for the savings that you will be able to make up to that moment if you decide to acquire solar panels now.