Affordability, Efficiency, And More
What does the solar technology landscape look like today? Solar panels are now so widely available that most regions have rebate programs to encourage homeowners to adopt them and many people are able to actually sell energy back to the power company, rather than paying an electric bill. This is the result of newer, highly efficient multi-material panels. Unlike the older, single material panels, which had a maximum efficiency of about 30%, panels that use quantum dots as part of their matrix are thought to be capable of up to 95% efficiency when converting energy.
Of course, efficiency is valuable property, but if it comes at too high a price, it’s not of much use, but luckily solar panel prices have also fallen in recent years, including for high efficiency panels. A number of laboratories are currently testing affordable, lightweight perovskite panels in real-life settings. Though their efficacy is still in question outside of the lab, in a controlled setting they are the perfect combination of affordable and efficient.
A Global Effort
Because researchers are currently exploring so many different potential panel compositions, it’s important that, when they do develop practical solar panel models, that those panels can safely be used across borders – and that’s where the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) comes into play.
The IEC is a global organization that publishes international standards for electronics and related items in collaboration with researchers, governments, consumer groups, and others. Indeed, often it’s IEC certification that signals to the larger community that a new product is ready to market, as we saw recently when the world’s first integrated solar roof received certification. It’s a stamp of approval that the product is safe and meets high quality standards, but it’s also an indicator of safety and inter-compatibility with other electrical systems.
With so many new companies and countries hard at work on better solar technology, the competition is stiff, but it’s all focused on the same outcome: a sustainable future. Taken as a complement to other sustainable energy sources, such as wind, and with an emphasis on improved performance, solar-focused companies are determined to compete with mainstream energy providers. Making a better product is important, but if it isn’t widely adopted, then it isn’t especially valuable.
Beyond the technological improvements, how are solar panels faring so far? The good news for solar panels is that they seem to be on the fast-track for popularity. After years in development, they’re familiar – a “new” technology consumers can trust – and that gives them a powerful competitive edge over less recognizable market offerings.