DIY Green Energy For Homes

How to Improve the Solar Cell Efficiency

A solar power system consists of several solar cells, where each solar cell creates only a small amount of electricity.

One solar cell can not generate a significant amount of power, if your power needs are huge, in which case you would need several solar cells linked together (panel).

An active solar system uses photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electrical energy. Active solar energy also uses another technique for concentrating thermal heat, known as solar thermal collection.

What is a solar cell?

Many people (even those familiar with solar energy) do not know the difference between solar panels and solar cells. A solar cell is a small component that absorbs high energy ultra-violet rays from the sun and converts it into electrical energy.

Typically, individual cells produce voltages lower than 3 volts, thus, many cells are connected such that the eventual voltage is at a useful level - cells are connected in series, where a positive terminal of one cell is connected to a negative terminal of the next cell in line, and so on. This collection of individual cells is what forms a solar panel.

Solar cell types

First generation cells are made of top quality material - silicon wafers. They are highly efficient and dominate a large portion of the solar market (86 percent), despite their high cost. Second generation cells - also called thin-film cells - are not made with highly efficient material but they are very flexible, and this is their biggest advantage.

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Thin-film solar technology is predicted to dominate the domestic solar market in the coming years of green energy awareness. Third generation cells, the non-silicon based cells, are still in research phase but predicted to be the cutting edge of solar technology.

Factors affecting efficiency

There are various factors that can affect efficiency of solar panels. In most cases, the type of cells used determines how efficient the solar panel will eventually be. One of the most important factors is the angle of the sun. When surface of the panel is perpendicular to sun rays, solar cells will be at their highest efficiency - absorb utmost energy from sunlight.

You should also pay attention to daily adjustments of solar panels. A rack or rooftop is an ideal place enabling daily adjustments. If solar cells are positioned perpendicular to sun rays when the sun is at peak, maximum energy will be harnessed.

Another important factor that affects efficiency of solar panels is seasonal adjustments. It’s important to align the solar panels horizontally during summer months so that sun rays can hit  the solar panels at a more perpendicular angle.

Change the solar box on fall equinox and spring equinox  too for maximum efficiency. You could also fit the panels with trackers to track the position of the sun so that their alignment remains perpendicular to the sun’s rays through out the day.

Although solar cell efficiency has improved over the years, more research is being done in this area but for the foreseeable future, solar cell design is still a major factor determining efficiency.

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