New Solar Cell Materials

Watts New with Solar Panel Technology

Courtesy Rural Electric Nebraska

Although solar energy has been commercially available for decades, the evolution of the solar market has grown faster and more expansive than some originally anticipated. With the price of solar rapidly declining over the last several years, combined with the significant evolution of battery storage technology, new products and systems are now within the reach of more energy consumers. Let's take a look at three of the latest improvements to better understand the solar energy landscape.

New Solar Cell Materials

Generally, when it comes to solar cell technology, there's usually a trade-off between the efficiency of the solar cell, or the measure of sunlight that hits the panel and actually becomes electricity, and the cell's flexibility. Perovskite solar cells are an emerging class of cells. They differ from common silicon solar cells in that they're flexible and have a higher reported efficiency. Their efficiency is reportedly at 22.7 percent with the Potential for 40 percent. To better understand these numbers, typical silicon photovoltaic cells generally achieve about 20 percent efficiency, meaning 20 percent of the solar energy that passes through the cell becomes electricity.

Perovskite solar cells also have a unique flexibility that allows for the material to be painted or sprayed on surfaces. This opens up infinite opportunities for solar energy generation. Perovskite cells are currently being tested and developed by the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab.

Solar and Storage

With increasing interest in solar energy, there is also a parallel interest in residential battery storage. Many electric utilities are seeing their consumers with residential solar panels add batteries to their systems. By pairing storage with solar, batteries can provide limited to complete back-up during a power outage, depending on the size of the home and the device. For new solar installations, homeowners and utilities are increasingly including battery storage to maximize the potential of the solar energy system.

solar panels

Solar Panel Technologies

One of Tesla's more revolutionary offerings is its Solar Rooftop. Rather than installing traditional solar panels to a home's rooftop, Tesla is giving homeowners the option of turning the entire roof into a solar energy generating system through solar rooftiles.

These extraordinary glass tiles come in various shades and sizes to compliment your home's design and are reportedly three times more durable than the average rooftop shingle. Tesla backs up this guarantee with a warranty that lasts for the lifetime of your house.

Because this technology is still very new, it has some maturing to do before it's as deployable as traditional rooftop solar, but the future is looking bright.

The Nebraska Energy Quarterly is funded, in part, by the U.S. Department of Energy through the State Energy Program