The solar power industry, like much commerce today, thrives on innovation and the drive to do more with less. Recently, one industry leader set a new standard when it announced a solar-panel technology with unprecedented levels of efficiency.
In October, SolarCity announced what it describes as the world’s most efficient solar panels, which reportedly achieved an efficiency rating of 22.04 percent. This surpassed the previous record holder manufactured by the company’s rival, SunPower, by about 1 percentage point. The rating was reported by the Renewable Energy Test Center, a third-party certification testing provider.
Although full production of the panels is a few years in the future, the company is already boasting that “the panel generates more power per square foot and harvests more energy over a year than any other rooftop panel in production.”
Such claims should not be entirely surprising, given the company’s leadership. SolarCity’s Chairman is Elon Musk, who also leads maverick electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla. SolarCity adds that the panel “will be the highest volume solar panel manufactured in the Western Hemisphere.” According to the company, the new panels are the same size as standard efficiency panels, but with about 30–40 percent more power. Most solar cells in the market now have efficiency ratings of between 11 and 15 percent.
The panels will first be manufactured in small quantities at the company’s 100-megawatt pilot facility. Eventually, they will be produced at SolarCity’s 1-gigawatt facility in Buffalo, N.Y., where full capacity is expected to reach 9,000–10,000 solar panels daily.
The panels will initially be installed on residences and commercial buildings and later in utility-scale applications.