Solar panel technology has been around in some form for a long time– Bell Labs invented the first useful solar cell more than 60 years ago, and scientists have known for centuries that the sun can be used to produce energy. However, it’s only in the last ten years or so that solar photovoltaics (PV) has really taken off as a renewable energy source, thank for There are two major factors influencing the technology’s growth: the steady improvement of both solar panel cost and solar panel efficiency over time.
Solar panel efficiency over time
The very first solar cells, invented in the 1800s, were less than one percent efficient, not nearly enough to make them a useful energy source. It wasn’t until 1954 that Bell Labs invented the first useful silicon solar panel, which was about 6 percent efficient.
Since then, solar PV technology has evolved at a rapid pace. Manufacturers have been able to create solar panels that are nearly 30 percent efficient, the current market solar panels are around 19 to 21 percent efficiency from. These high-efficiency panels can produce 25 percent more electricity than the lower-tier economy panels that made up the majority of the market in past years.
The technology exists to increase solar panel efficiency even further. Researchers have managed to achieve 46 percent efficiency in certain laboratory tests using advanced cell structures. However, super high-efficiency panels are typically made of more expensive materials not used in rooftop solar panels, and as a result, they aren’t currently cost-effective.