High Efficiency Solar Panels
While the use of solar power has been growing throughout the entire industrialized world, there have been some new developments to increasing effectiveness while minimizing costs. High efficiency solar panels are now available to the consumer who is looking to squeeze the most energy possible out of their solar set-up. A Chinese solar processor has invented and patented a revolutionary process for creating silicon wafers to be used in solar cells that cause deep cuts in the cost of the power generated. Estimates are between 10 percent and 20 percent of the overall cost saved when using these high efficiency solar panels.
This new process employs a method that divides each cell into two parts. One part of the panel is mono-crystalline and is dark in appearance while the other part of the cell is multi-crystalline and presents a more variegated appearance. This idea of cutting expenses by using the dual cell technology was patented nearly twenty years ago but never commercially acted upon. The recent expiration of the patent sent many companies scrambling to master the method and be the first to offer the product. The Chinese businesses had a distinct advantage over their US counterparts as they have been steadily increasing manufacturing efficiency with the aid of their government. In the US, companies have been seeking to advance the thin-film solar method and this latest Chinese development could spell some trouble for the US market even though the thin-film technology is technically less expensive to produce than the silicon technology.
The highest quality solar panels are made from mono-crystalline wafers. The process to make them is expensive and labor intensive. This is due to the fact that the pool of silicon that the crystal is formed in must be kept hot for up to two days while the ingot is crystallizing. With the ordinary method of multi-crystalline wafers, the pool of silicon need not be kept hot, which offers the manufacturer substantial savings in energy and production costs. While these cells can be made quickly and cheaply, they are far less efficient than the mono wafers. The Chinese company Suntech has revolutionized this process by enabling the crystals to form at the bottom of the pools of silicon. Heat is then extracted from the bottom of the crucible rather than having the seed drawn up slowly and repeatedly through the heated silicon. Not only does this save in manufacturing costs, but also a purely mono crystal can then be extracted from the center of the ingot that is formed. The remaining areas of the ingot can also be put to use in the panel, resulting in the increased efficiency in production and product. High efficiency solar panels are sought after by all consumers using this technology and this latest discovery will likely result in a permanent change in the way solar cells are manufactured in the US and abroad. Competing companies will have to adopt the Chinese method of production in order that their products remain competitive in this rapidly evolving marketplace.