Updated: Sep 17, 2019
Efficiency Ratings Are Estimated, NOT Guarantee
Lab tests can provide a good starting point for understanding solar panel efficiency, but until the panels are operating on a large scale there is no way of knowing exactly how well they will perform. Even Peter Rive, the co-founder and CTO of SolarCity, acknowledged that 22% efficiency is “on the high end” of their test results, and that most of their panels test closer to 21.8%. Some variation in solar panel efficiency is not uncommon – manufacturing and testing conditions can impact measured production efficiency. However, Rive’s comment is a reminder that, until the technology reaches the marketplace and is installed at scale, it remains to be seen whether SolarCity’s new product is actually “the world’s most efficient solar panels.”
That is not to say that uncertainty around solar panel efficiency ratings will inevitably result in a lower score. Solar panel performance can actually be higher than manufacturers indicate: SunPower has been producing panels for the past two years that are rated at 21.5% efficiency, while the company reports that the majority of those panels actually exceed 22% efficiency once installed!
Module Efficiency Is Only 1 Component of Solar Panel System Performance
While there is definite value to solar panels with a higher efficiency, panels are one of many components that impact the long-term performance of your solar energy system. This is why it is a key to pick a right partner as your installer and find the optimal equipment setup for your property’s needs. By taking into consideration the overall design of your solar energy system, including panel and inverter efficiency, warranties, and production guarantees from your installer, you can better determine the impact that more efficient solar panels will have on overall system performance.
In some cases, a higher efficiency solar panel module could be the only way for you to “go solar.” For example, if the roof of your home is particularly small, or if you have gables or skylights that take up significant roof space, you might not have enough space to install a useful system unless you choose the most efficient solar panels possible.
Solar Technology Is Constantly Evolving
SolarCity’s announcement has been heralded as a remarkable development in solar technology, but the truth is that the increase in efficiency is relatively small when compared to what’s already available on the market. Analogous to Moore’s Law, there will always be more efficient solar technology coming down the line. If you wait until 2017 to install SolarCity’s new high efficiency solar panels, there will surely be new reports of companies working to create even more efficient panels at an even lower cost.
The bottom line? If you are considering going solar, don’t wait for the most efficient solar panels to hit the market – start exploring your options now. Get A Free Quote from Solar Era today to find out how much you can save from solar.