What Affects Solar Cell Efficiency In Space vs. Earth?
Solar energy is more efficient than traditional ways of producing electricity. That’s a well-known fact. However, did you know solar cell efficiency is less on Earth than it is in space? Solar panels on satellites, for example, are up to five times more effective than their counterparts down here. What causes this drop in efficiency?
Space vs. Earth
Sunlight reaches solar panels in space nearly all the time. On earth, solar panels aren’t receiving direct sunlight during nighttime or through cloud cover. In fact, it’s estimated that Earth’s atmosphere reflects or absorbs 55-60% of solar energy on its way to the surface. This is a good thing for us humans because it protects us from the sun’s harmful UV rays. “Terrestrial” solar panels, or solar panels on Earth, end up absorbing less solar energy.
Weather Is A Factor
As you can imagine, the solar panels that go up in space are a lot more advanced than the ones we put on our houses. A lot of money goes into making sure they can withstand extreme conditions. Here, solar panels can lose capacity over time due to the wear-and-tear of time. Terrestrial solar panels are sensitive to weather conditions, such as thick layers of snow and ice.
Most home power systems use what we call AC power. We do this because AC electricity runs over long distances better. However, solar energy is first converted into the DC format. Space stations don’t need to transmit energy over distances, so they don’t need to convert energy from DC to AC. When home solar panels convert energy, a little energy is lost in the process.
As of right now, the most efficient solar panels on Earth function at around 20-22% efficiency. Constant advances in science aim to improve this rate. In fact, we’ve already solved one problem - storing solar energy when it’s dark outside. Many home solar systems now come with solar battery storage that can act as a backup generator.
Additionally, as more and more solar panels are produced, engineers are figuring out how to reduce the loss of efficiency over time. Solar panels are not only more efficient than they ever have been before, but last longer, too. In the future, weather conditions will have little effect as we find new innovations in solar technology. Scientists have also identified another factor that reduces solar panel efficiency - LID, or light-induced degradation. LID is caused by a defect in the silicon used to convert solar energy. Engineers are working to resolve this defect, too.
Need More Information?
If you’re a homeowner interested in solar power, give us a call at Fafco Solar. We can keep you up to date about the latest solar technology. In fact, we stock SunPower solar panels, the most efficient on the market. Ask us about the innovative energy solutions we’ve offered homeowners for over 45 years.
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