We have previously learned the basics of photovoltaics and the anatomy of photovoltaic cells, now we’ll delve into the complex design and function of solar cells. A group of solar cells, called a solar panel, is the basis for all commercial and residential solar energy systems. Most cells use crystalline silicon or cadmium telluride that is cut into thin wafers. The conducting wires are most often made of silver, copper or another transition metal. This group of solar cells are mounted on a supporting structure, such as a piece of metal and made into an assembled and packaged solar panel. The panels can be used on their own or as part of a much more complex photovoltaic system to generate solar power for larger residences or commercial properties.
Mounting systems can be fixed on a roof or on a pole above the ground. A solar panel can also be affixed to a roof. Some panels have solar trackers that tilt to get the best light exposure.
Solar Panel Efficiency
You’ve probably heard much about percentage efficiency for some solar panels. This is because photovoltaic modules cannot cover some types of light, specifically ultraviolet, infrared and diffuse light; therefore, some of the sun’s energy is wasted by solar panels. The efficiency increases if the panels are illuminated by monochromatic light. Some panel designs that have split light into wavelengths and have those wavelengths shine onto cell specifically made for that cell have increased cell efficiency by over 50 percent. The efficiency for most current products is around 22 percent in newer products and about 12-15 percent on much older modules. Most modules are able to effectively sustain through heavy temperature and precipitation conditions.
Some companies having started building smart modules that have individually tracking devices for each module and can optimize power more successfully. New technology has allowed the module to continue a state of efficiency even if one or more of the cells in completely in the shade.
Now we can recycle many parts of a solar module if it starts to lose functionality. Up to 97 percent of the materials are recyclable. After removing the aluminum frame, a mill crushes the glass, plastics, and metals – all of these materials then get distributed to manufacturers who use that corresponding material. The recycling process for cadmium telluride models preserves 90 percent of the glass and 90 percent of the semiconductor material.
Solar panels may also have rebates for those who purchase them, so it’s becoming cheaper and more efficient to purchase a solar module.