Many research groups are actively working on improving solar panel performance around the world.
Improving panel performance guarantees more energy production at reduced cost.
By reducing production costs, while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of solar cells, manufacturers ensure solar dominance in the energy markets of the future.
Over the last decade, solar energy has rapidly transitioned from being an energy source of the future to being increasingly viable in residential, commercial and industrial settings.
Historically, social and environmental benefits were the primary arguments for switching to solar energy. Cleaner air is good for both the climate and citizens, however, the high costs and low energy output from the panels made the economics of the technology a hard sell.
Fast forward to 2019, and the costs of solar energy have plummeted. The fall in price has been so substantial that, depending on location, the cost of long-term solar contracts now rival those of natural gas plants. For years, natural gas has been touted as the “bridge” needed to move the world towards decarbonization. However, this bridge is seemingly shorter than previously anticipated.
Recent projections have shown that it may actually be cheaper to develop renewable energy (plus storage) than to maintain existing natural gas plants by 2035.
The technological innovation of the solar industry has focused on solar cells as the key to increasing the viability of the technology. Solar cells, or photovoltaic cells, convert photons from the sun, or solar light, into electricity. Solar cells are small in size and are the primary component in solar panels.
As the conversion of solar light into electricity is completed by these cells, their efficiency is critical to the success of the solar industry.
The first solar cells, which were initially developed in the 1800s, were less than 1% efficient. This meant the first solar panels could convert roughly 1% of absorbed sunlight into electricity.
It wasn’t until the development of the first silicon solar panel in 1954 where the technology developed the capacity to increase efficiency. Innovation since has allowed the efficiency of solar panels to increase to between 15-18% on average.
Production and deployment costs of solar panels have also been significantly reduced, increasing the viability of the technology. As the efficiency of solar cells increases, so does the return on solar investments. Installations today are cheaper than ever and produce more energy, allowing investments to be paid off much sooner.
The volatility of factors impacting energy markets makes timing important for emerging technologies.
For solar energy, the timing couldn’t be any better. Solar panels are cheaper than ever, provide larger returns, and have the added benefit of being good for the climate.
As the public has grown increasingly fearful of climate change, governments have, for the most part, increased incentives, investments and subsidies to help lower the production and distribution costs of solar energy.
This has helped translate into solar energy being available at economically viable prices for both families and businesses.
In Ontario, the cost of solar installations ranges from $2.28-$2.78/Watt, a price which would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
Innovation has transformed the solar industry into a reliable, affordable and accessible form of energy. By reducing solar power’s production and distribution costs, while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of solar cells, solar energy providers are setting themselves up to provide consumers incredibly low energy rates, ensuring solar dominance in the energy markets of the future.
HPQ Silicon is a Quebec-based TSX Venture Exchange Tier 1 Industrial Issuer. With the support of world-class technology partners PyroGenesis Canada and NOVACIUM SAS, the company is developing new green processes crucial to make the critical materials needed to reach net zero emissions.