The solar industry has spent decades slashing the cost of generating electricity direct from the sun. Now it’s focusing on making panels even more powerful.
With savings in equipment manufacturing hitting a plateau, and more recently pressured by rising prices of raw materials, producers are stepping up work on advances in technology — building better components and employing increasingly sophisticated designs to generate more electricity from the same-sized solar farms.
A push for more powerful solar equipment underscores how further cost reductions remain essential to advance the shift away from fossil fuels.
While grid-sized solar farms are now typically cheaper than even the most advanced coal or gas-fired plants, additional savings will be required to pair clean energy sources with the expensive storage technology that’s needed for around-the-clock carbon-free power.
Bigger factories, the use of automation and more efficient production methods have delivered economies of scale, lower labor costs and less material waste for the solar sector. The average cost of a solar panel dropped by 90% from 2010 to 2020.
Boosting power generation per panel means developers can deliver the same amount of electricity from a smaller-sized operation. That’s potentially crucial as costs of land, construction, engineering and other equipment haven’t fallen in the same way as panel prices.
It can even make sense to pay a premium for more advanced technology. “
Higher-powered systems are already arriving. Through much of the past decade, most solar panels produced a maximum of about 400 watts of electricity. In early 2020, companies began selling 500-watt panels and 700-watt model.
Perovskite is a solar panel being developed in South Korea. They are developing a thinner and more transparent than polysilicon, the material that’s traditionally used, perovskite could eventually be layered on top of existing solar panels to boost efficiency, or be integrated with glass to make building windows that also generate power.
Then there are Bi-facial Panels. These are solar panels that can also generate power from the side that’s not facing the sun which makes it more efficient.
Doped Polysilicon is 3.5% more powerful than the material that currently dominates the market.
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