Understanding solar energy and solar Panels
At the vibrant Gujarat summit, Indian PM Modi has tried to woo the investor by asking them to garner and investment of $100 Billion into solar energy by 2022 so as to reach the target of 100,000 MW power productions through solar energy. If this comes true, we would be surpassing the ambitious target of 22,000 MW solar power generations by 2022 that was set in 2010’s national solar mission. Let us try to understand how the solar energy works and what determines the quality of solar panels.
Solar panels are made up of solar cells wired together. The cells are where the magic of converting solar light into electricity happens. A key point of comparison is just how efficient this conversion process is. The very best commercially available solar cells are still less than 25% efficient at this process, with 15% to 18% efficiency being much more common. There are a few characteristics to look for the solar panels before one decides to buy it.
Constituents – Solar cells will be either monocrystalline, polycrystalline, ribbon silicon, thin-film, or even multiple silicon layers. In general monocrystalline cells are more efficient than polycrystalline cells, and they are both much more efficient than amorphous silicon thin film cells.
Power (Pmax) – This is the maximum wattage the panel is capable of producing, under absolutely ideal conditions. The Pmax can hardly be achieved while using the solar panel at home because absence of the ideal conditions such as temperature, humidity etc. Power is measured in watts, so the more wattage is always a good thing.
Watts / Square Meter – If you have limited surface area for panels, more efficient cells can cram a lot more wattage onto your roof. To compare panels in this way, multiply the length and width to get the area and divide the panel wattage by this value. The more watts per square meter, the better is the solar panel.
Besides looking for above characteristics for choosing a solar panel, a lot of care needs to be taken after they have been installed to ensure that they produce the power at the desirable rate. Heat in particular is a killer of the solar panel performance, the warmer a solar panel gets, the less power it puts out. Without any air space below to allow for cooling, heat becomes one of the prime concerns that lowers down the efficiency of the solar panels. Shade and dirt are always a serious concern, because even a tiny corner of a panel blocked from getting sunlight could end up diminishing the output of the entire panel.
Due to high cost of the panels, the solar energy in India costs up to 50 percent more than power from sources like coal. India gets twice as much sunshine as many European countries that use solar power, but the clean energy source contributes less than 1 percent to India's energy mix as of now. Most of the focused solar innovation is now not on efficiency, but rather on driving costs down. And a downfall of adopting that strategy is that we are not achieving desirable efficiency through solar panels. For India to achieve its ambitious targets of not only of renewable power generation but also of manufacturing output, it will have to promote solar panels production in India. There had been a few manufacturers in India in the recent past but most of them had to close down as they couldn’t compete with Chinese solar panels in terms of cost in the market. The government has to ensure that it either subsidizes the solar panel manufacturers in India or make banks to provide loan to solar panel manufacturers. One of the prime reasons for success of Chinese solar panel manufacturers in the global market is the subsidized loan of $50 billion that the Chinese government had provided them as few years back. Considering that solar energy production will increase exponentially in India in few years, it would be a win-win situation if manufacturing of solar panels is also given equal importance.