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Exploring The Efficiency of Solar Panels

Lisa Foran | May 20 | News

In recent years, solar panels have seen plenty of technological advancements that make them a great source of electricity when compared to fossil fuels. While they were initially less efficient, improvements have since been made to bring them forward.

In this blog post, we are going to be looking at the general efficiency of solar panels today and how they have improved over the years as well as discussing some of the main ways in which we can support you with acquiring solar panels for your home.


What Is Solar Panel Efficiency?

Solar panel efficiency is a term simply used to describe the rate at which solar cells convert sunlight into electricity, this is expressed in a percentage.

Put simply, this means that if a solar panel has an efficiency of 30%, then 30% of the light that hits the solar panel is being converted into electricity.

Panel owners must understand these figures to learn how to utilise their solar panels best and make the most of their investments.


How is Efficiency Measured?

The majority of manufacturers use accurate measurements under Standard Test Conditions (STC) to compute the ratio of electrical output to solar input.

To calculate solar panel efficiency, you need to divide the electrical output by the input solar energy and multiply by 100. This figure gives accurate measurements of how much electrical energy is being created by your solar panel system.


How Has Solar Panel Efficiency Improved?

The above data is according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2024 which found a promising trend of growth from 1977 to 2022 in the overall efficiency of solar panels, with the percentage in 1977 being 21.9% and the final figure in 2022 reaching 47.6%.

The figure has more than doubled from the beginning of the chart and this number is expected to continue growing before it plateaus. Even before this data, solar panels have made great strides in becoming more efficient as the years go by and are looking to be a very encouraging avenue to replace fossil fuels in the future.

It is important to note that these figures are reflective of the maximum efficiency ratings of solar panels globally and do not reflect the average solar panel arrangement.


How Efficient Are Most Solar Panels?

The average residential solar panel is much closer to around 20% however this can vary greatly depending on the type of solar technology that has been used. For example, monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are much more efficient than their thin film counterparts.

While these solar panels are more expensive than thin film solar panels, the vast efficiency improvements are surely worth all of the extra money spent on these arrangements.


Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels consist of a single continuous crystal structure, and the silicon used is of high quality, increasing the panel’s efficiency. Due to the way the silicon is cut, monocrystalline panels often have a uniform dark black tint and a visible diamond-shaped pattern inside the cells.

They perform better in low-light conditions and are more successful at converting sunlight into electricity, even on gloomy days or in low-light environments. These panels are also known for their endurance, with lifespans of 25 years or more.


Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels, sometimes called multi-crystalline panels, are a common type of photovoltaic panels that provide a good balance of cost and efficiency.

The panels are made by fusing silicon crystals together. Polycrystalline panels, as opposed to monocrystalline panels, are composed of many silicon fragments that have been melted and fused.

Polycrystalline panels have lower efficiencies than monocrystalline panels. The multi-crystal structure allows for reduced electron mobility, which results in a somewhat lower efficiency.


Thin Film Solar Panels

Thin film solar panels offer a flexible, lightweight, and versatile solution for a wide range of solar energy applications. Thin film panels are formed by depositing one or more layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate.

While they have lower efficiency and a shorter lifespan than crystalline panels, their unique advantages make them ideal for specialised installations and situations where ordinary panels may not be suitable. Their lower production and installation costs make them more attractive for a variety of solar energy applications.


Factors Affecting Solar Panel Efficiency

Several factors can affect the efficiency of your solar panels, many of which you may not have thought of. The first of which is simply the shading of the area in which they are placed.

If you have placed your solar panels in an area of your home that is commonly beneath the shame of a tree or even your home itself then this will massively impact the efficiency of your arrangement.

Another major issue that people face with their solar panels is ageing. As your solar panels age, they gradually become less and less efficient as time goes on. This means that after around 20 – 25 years they will be operating at around 80% of their original capacity.


Solar Panel Installations with ESOLAR

At ESOLAR, we have a team filled with solar panel experts who are passionate about helping others reduce their carbon footprint to help fight climate change. Solar panels are a great alternative to fossil fuels and offer so many benefits to their owners and the environment.

We are MCS, NAPIT, NICEIC, Trustmark and RECC accredited which can give you peace of mind that we are fully qualified and know what we are doing. Our main aim is to give you the best price for your solar panels, so we are able to match any legitimate quote you present us with.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team if you have any questions about our services and we will be happy to help.