Despite the fact that solar adoption is at its highest, photovoltaic technology is still an evolving field. New research into creating better, more efficient panels is being done around the world and we keep getting exciting news every so often.
For instance, Perovskite based PV cells have shown to offer efficiency of over 29%. Labs in Europe have also produced regular silicon solar cells that can do well over 25%. Not to mention, solar panel costs are falling, so waiting might seem like the right thing to do.
But is it the right decision to make?
Hope springs eternal certainly rings true here and as a consumer, you need to be wary of the facts before deciding on whether to wait for the next generation of solar panels, or make the jump now.
Just What is Possible With Solar Technology
Let’s start with establishing just how good solar panels can theoretically get. No solar power system will ever be 100% efficient. There’s always going to be energy loss due to naturally present impurities in the PV modules and its various connecting components.
Current solar cells are also bound by the Shockley-Queisser limit. The theory was proposed by William Shockley and Hans-Joachim Queisser in 1961 and it postulates that single cell systems have a theoretical efficiency upper limit of 33.7%, while multi-junction cells can go upto 86.6% with concentrated light.
However, this limit applies to silicon based solar cells and assumes perfect conditions. In other words, we’re probably never going to see such numbers being advertised by solar panel manufacturers unless a big breakthrough comes along.
So, far researchers have put forth different configurations and materials to showcase higher efficiencies. For instance, NASA has proposed Selenium based solar cells for space and military applications which could be 30%-40% efficient. Researchers at US’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory showcased a panel with 47.1% efficiency using several layers of Gallium-Arsenide doped cells.
While all these are very promising developments, there’s one problem — they’re all still on the drawing board, and will be very expensive to manufacture commercially.
So, What Can You Do?
Even though such numbers are impressive, we dare say that solar panel efficiency is a tad overrated. All it really means is that you will require fewer panels to get to the power output you desire.
An extremely high efficiency solar panel is bound to cost a lot. In which case, you can simply opt for a couple more “old school” panels to get the same result at a similar or even lower price.
There are also some other factors that come into play if you decide to wait:
The Solar Tax Credits (STCs) are phasing out: Much of the reason why solar power is so cheap is because of the government subsidy behind them.
But, the STCs started being phased out from Dec 31st 2020 and will decrease every year until 2030 when they will be withdrawn completely. So, the longer you wait, the more you pay.
Solar panel prices are plateauing: Even though the price of solar panels has been coming down, they have begun to level out. The cost of solar panels fell 20% from 2014 to 2018, but only 3.8% since. They are not expected to get drastically cheaper.
You’ll have to pay more simply for waiting: It takes a solar power system around 4 years to pay itself off, after which, you get free, or close to free power.
Every year you wait, you have to purchase electricity from the grid. So, you lose out on the long term savings solar power offers.
New technologies need time to prove themselves: Even if a manufacturer comes out with an industry shattering solar panel, there’s no guarantee it will perform well in real world conditions. Existing solar technologies have been in use for well over a decade now, so they are more refined and trustworthy.
Bottomline is, If You Want to Go Solar, Don’t Wait
Waiting for something better, in the case of solar panels may ultimately prove more costly than investing in it now. Your best bet here is to educate yourself about solar technology and how it works.
If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact us with any questions you might have. We’ve helped hundreds of customers make informed decisions and we’d be happy to do the same for you.