Solar power is efficient enough to make a difference. Since solar energy is created from a renewable energy source, any amount of energy produced is helpful to people and the environment.
To maximize the efficiency of solar energy, many researchers have been improving the efficiency of solar panels, the devices that collect the sun’s energy for use. Improvements have been made by optimizing manufacturing techniques and using higher quality materials.
One way of measuring the efficiency of solar panels is to calculate the percentage of the solar energy that a panel converts into electricity. Most solar panels convert around 15% of the sun’s energy into electricity. More experimental photovoltaic panels, like concentrating solar panels, can convert 40% of incident solar energy into electricity. These panels utilize varying band gaps and mirror arrays and are used more for large-scale solar power generation.
Another way of measuring the efficiency of a solar panel is by measuring the energy density of a solar panel. Energy density is measured in electrical output per unit of surface area, or W/ft2. A more efficient solar panel will produce more watts per square foot.
Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination. Concentrated solar power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. Photovoltaic cells convert light into an electric current using the photovoltaic effect.
Photovoltaics were initially solely used as a source of electricity for small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to remote homes powered by an off-grid rooftop PV system. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s. The 392 MW Ivanpah installation is the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, located in the Mojave Desert of California.
As the cost of solar electricity has fallen, the number of grid-connected solar PV systems has grown into the millions and utility-scale solar power stationswith hundreds of megawatts are being built. Solar PV is rapidly becoming an inexpensive, low-carbon technology to harnes