In a low-sunlight environment like the Pacific Northwest, solar panel efficiency and quality can be the difference between a successful energy system and continued reliance on the grid. As a savvy buyer, you want to make sure you are getting efficient panels that will do well in our climate.
In this article, we will take a look at solar panel efficiency, durability, and the best choices for PNW buyers.
How efficient are solar panels today?
Solar panels have become much more efficient over time. Due to recent advances in photovoltaic technology, solar panel conversion efficiency has risen from 10-15% to well over 20% in some cases. It depends on the model you buy, but major manufacturers like SunPower and LG Solar now boast efficiencies above 22%.
However, real-world solar panel efficiency depends on many external as well as internal factors. Shading, irradiance, panel orientation, temperature, time of year, dust, dirt, and latitude can all affect solar panel efficiency. Solar panels will be most efficient when they are placed in an unshaded area at an optimized angle and properly maintained.
Solar panel technology efficiency is determined largely by two factors: the efficiency of the photovoltaic (PV) cell, which is based on the silicon type and cell design, and the total efficiency, which is based on the panel size, cell layout, and configuration. To create the most efficient possible solar panel system for your home, you will need to work with an expert technician.
Roof area vs. efficiency
The more efficient your solar panels are, the less roof area you need. High-efficiency panels are ideal for rooftops with limited space, or for creating a larger-capacity system with the same amount of space. For example, 12 high-efficiency solar panels with 22% conversion efficiency will provide over 1200W more total solar capacity than the same number of 17.5% conversion efficiency panels.
Panel size vs. efficiency
Many people think that larger solar panels are more efficient. While this isn’t always the case, using larger panels with larger cells will increase the cell surface area, which can make your overall system more efficient.
New larger cells and high powered panels
Solar panel manufacturers have begun to move toward larger cell wafer sizes than the standard 156mm square cells. The most popular new cell sizes include 166mm, 182mm, and 210 mm.
These new larger cells are more efficient, more powerful, and cost less to manufacture. When combined with new panel formats, the larger cells have allowed manufacturers to develop more powerful solar panels than ever.
What are the best solar panels on the market?
The most efficient solar panels on the market today typically use highly efficient N-type cell variations, such as heterojunction (HJT) or interdigitated back contact (IBC) monocrystalline silicon cells. Many other manufacturers use the more common P-type mono-PERC cells, although that is beginning to change.
However, solar panel buyers should consider more than just efficiency. Manufacturing quality can make an enormous difference in real-world efficiency over time, not to mention maintenance costs and replacement timelines.
At Switch Electric, we offer solar products from a variety of manufacturers, including SunPower, LG Solar, Generac PWRcell, Enphase, SnapNrack, Silfab, and Solar Edge. We have extensive experience with solar energy in the Pacific Northwest, and we can help you figure out which options make the most sense for your situation.
What is the most efficient solar panel on the market?
As of this writing, the most efficient solar panel on the market is the SunPower M Series, which is 22.80% efficient. Its power output is rated at 440 W. The next most efficient options are the SunPower A Series at up to 22.50% efficient and the LG Solar NeON R ACe at 22.30%.
Is buying a more efficient solar panel worth it? Cost vs. efficiency
The most efficient panels above 21% featuring N-type cells are generally much more expensive than other panels. If cost is a major limitation, you may want to consider only using these types of cells in locations with limited mounting space. However, high-efficiency panels with N-type cells will nearly always outperform and outlast panels using P-type cells.
If you can pay the upfront cost of more efficient solar panels, it is usually worth it in the long run. N-type cells have a lower rate of light-induced degradation or LID, and they usually come with a longer warranty period.
Get an Expert Opinion on the Best Solar Panels for Your Home
Switch Electric has extensive experience with solar products in the Pacific Northwest. We install solar panels from a variety of manufacturers, including SunPower, LG Solar, and Silfab.
Our team is well-equipped to help you find the best solar options for your home. Try our free calculator to get an instant estimate of the cost to go solar, or reach out to us today for assistance with your solar project.