Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Most Efficient Solar Panel Yet

Alta Devices, a solar company based in California, just announced that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory had verified its claim that its solar panels had achieved an efficiency of 23.5 percent, meaning that the panels are able to convert 23.5 percent of energy captured from the sun into electrical output. That is nearly twice as efficient as today's top panels.

Which is great, and now we get to find out if they can manufacture these panels at a competitive price. The panels are made of gallium arsenide, which is very expensive, but for their test panels they were able to use sheets of gallium arsenide only 1/40th the thickness of a human hair. That makes the cost of the materials reasonable and also reduces the weight and thickness of the overall panel system. If they can manufacture those ultra-thin sheets cheaply and reliably enough, they could be solar leaders in a few years.

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