The solar power industry continues to grow in 2018, as new technologies make panels less expensive and more efficient; emerging markets are beginning to see the advantages of green energy. Solar energy is being generated more efficiently, but what causes the increase in capacity per panel is a mystery to your average consumer; it’s easy enough to understand wind power and hydropower, where the force of nature moves a number of turbines to generate electricity. There is solar technology that functions in much the same way, heating water with the power of concentrated rays in order to generate steam, but most residential solar panels focus instead on a concentration of photovoltaic (PV) cells that make use of photons from the sun to generate electricity.
Solar panels are primarily made of silicon, the same lovely material that gives the Valley its name. The goal is to have the photons from the sun knock electrons out of their atom’s orbit in order to generate electricity. To do this, they must first create an electrical field; much like a magnetic field, electrical fields are generated when there are two separate, differently charged substances near each other.
To generate this field using silicon creates a challenge because two sheets of silicon will likely have the same charge. The solution is to “dope” the silicon with other materials; commonly, phosphorus is used on the top layer to create a negative charge, with boron used at the bottom layer to create a positive charge. The electrical field these differently charged materials create is used to force electrons towards metal plates when photons from the sun collide with them. The metal plates direct the electrons into wires; at this point, they’re usable electricity!
Your solar panels are made up of several PV cells; your full array may have hundreds of them! Improvements in solar panel technology are the result of more efficient arrangements and different materials being used in each cell. You might try a material that’s more lightweight, or more cost-effective; you might instead try to find a way to make smaller cells with the same efficiency, in much the same way that computer processors have improved over time. The smaller the cell, the more you can fit onto any given array.
There are many individuals trying to find more efficient batteries to use for solar energy; one of the few drawbacks of the technology is that when there’s less sun, power generation goes down. A battery that could store the electricity generated over long periods of time, while being relatively inexpensive and small, would seriously improve the quality of life of panel users.
We offer installation services of solar panels; Winnipeg is particularly sunny, we have one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and Manitoba Hydro offers a net metering program, allowing you to reduce your power bill based on how much energy your solar panels produce. The technology will continue to improve, and solar is here to stay, so it’s the perfect time to get panels and help both your budget and the environment!