Solar energy is quickly developing into the next major source of renewable energy used by businesses and individuals all over the world. As the popularity and knowledge about solar energy panels continue to expand, more and more people may find themselves wondering about solar panel efficiency. To help you get a solid understanding of what contributing factors help determine solar panel efficiency, we have prepared a brief guide below.
Solar Panel Types
A solar panel or PV (photovoltaic) cell, is capable of capturing solar energy directly from the sun and converting it into usable electricity. You may be surprised to learn that there is actually more than one type of solar panel out there since they tend to look the same at a glance. The efficiency of your solar panel system can definitely be impacted by the type of PV cells you are using.
- Monocrystalline: This type of solar panel is among the most efficient because of the high purity of the silicon used in their construction. These panels are an ideal choice for homeowners looking to maximize the overall efficiency of their solar panel system.
- Polycrystalline: If cost is a factor that needs to be considered, choosing a polycrystalline solar panel system is a good option. Although they aren’t quite as efficient compared to their monocrystalline counterparts, a polycrystalline system will provide more than adequate solar panel efficiency for the average residential user.
- Thin Film: This type of solar panel is the least efficient of the three, and they tend to take up a lot more space to generate a comparable amount of energy. Due to this fact, they don’t make sense as an option for smaller properties or residences, but their low cost makes them a great choice for larger industrial properties.
Solar panels require as much sunlight as they can gather to continue to produce electrical energy in an efficient manner. When determining the location of your PV cell system, regardless of the type of panels you choose, you need to minimize the amount of shade. In some cases, you can install micro-inverters to supplement the energy loss due to shade. The best method of dealing with shade if you are setting up a solar panel array is to avoid it as best as you can.
Avoiding shade and maximizing the amount of sunlight your solar panels are exposed to requires some attention to be paid to the orientation of your panels. You need to consider where the sun shines most on your property, and where you can orient your panels to receive the most sunlight. In a place like Vancouver, or the rest of BC’s lower mainland, you will get the best results by facing your solar panels to the south. Since we are in the Northern Hemisphere, above the equator, the sun will always be shining from the south. You can have a major impact on your solar panel efficiency, for better or worse, depending on your panel’s orientation.
While sunlight is a good thing to have to rain down on your solar panels, too much heat from the sun can have a negative impact on the solar panel’s overall efficiency. The way to ensure your panels don’t get too hot is to have them positioned and installed where adequate airflow can reach the panels. In a place like BC which can get hot, but not nearly as hot as the southwest US, providing proper airflow will keep your panels from overheating and losing some of their efficiency.
Lifespan and Maintenance
Like anything that is constantly exposed to sunlight, solar panels will eventually degrade over time. This doesn’t mean they will quickly lose their efficiency overnight, but eventually after a few years or so, you may notice a slight drop in conversion efficiency. Most manufacturers offer a warranty on their products that states the efficiency will never drop below 80% after 25 years of service. With regular cleaning and maintenance this decline in efficiency can be prevented. Dust and dirt buildup on the surface of the solar panels can have an impact on efficiency, so it is wise to perform regular cleaning with soap and water.
With proper planning and attention to details like shade level and proper orientation of the solar panels, most people can prevent a major drop in their solar panel efficiency. For expert advice in planning and installing a new solar panel system, be sure to get in touch with the Vancouver solar panel experts here at Rikur Energy.
Brad is proud to be of First Nation’s descent with ancestry traced back to the Manitoba Red River Band. With over 20 years’ experience in the construction industry, Brad offers an extensive background of project procurement in industries from agriculture, electrical distribution to commercial construction. Brad is a NABCEP certified professional with a thirst for ongoing education in the renewable field.