While solar energy power continues to grow in popularity, some misconceptions about photovoltaic (PV) technology persist. Some people mistakenly believe that only the sunniest regions are prime candidates for solar power or may think that a PV system in their area would be too expensive. Many beliefs about PV installations are outdated. The overall cost of generating electricity from solar power has decreased 95 percent over the last forty years. Solar technology has undergone significant improvement as well.
Solar panels are rated by how efficient they are at converting sunlight into electricity under industry standards. Advancements in solar technology are increasingly making panels more efficient, delivering more electricity to buildings. Monocrystalline PV cells, those cut from a single silicon crystal, are now routinely achieving 16 to 18 percent efficiency. Polycrystalline cells that are produced from multiple blocks of silicon typically achieve 12 to 14 percent efficiency. PV arrays are lasting longer than previously expected as well, without significantly losing efficiency. Today’s systems are now expected to last 25 to 30 years. Panel manufacturers are beginning to lengthen warranties to reflect a longer life expectancy.
Solar Energy Economics
PV systems don’t need constant sunlight to be economical. Monocrystalline PV cells can be efficient even in low-light conditions. Solar savings are strongly affected by conventional electric rates as well. In areas where rates are high, meeting a building’s electrical needs with solar-generated electricity saves more money on electric bills than in areas where electricity is less expensive. The ROI period is shortened as well. Once the installation cost is recouped, the solar energy that the system produces is free.
New PV Applications
Building-integrated photovoltaics, or BIPVs, are among the newest trends in solar power. Whether fabricating PV cells into roofing shingles or incorporating them into windows, some BIPV products are already showing up on the market, manufactured by large, established corporations. Solar energy system DIY kits are beginning to go mainstream as well. One of the newest kits available is modular, giving homeowners the option to start small and add to the array over time.