What exactly is solar panel efficiency?

When people talk about solar panel efficiency, they are referring to their ability to convert sunlight into electricity – and this number has been soaring in recent years, as technology improves.

what is solar panel efficiency

While the first solar cell was invented back in the 1800s, it was not a viable power source, due to its efficiency rating being less than one per cent. It wouldn’t be until 1955 that the first commercially viable solar panels would be invested by Hoffman Electrics; although at $25, a cell for just 10 per cent efficiency would mean you’d need to dish out $4 million USD for a system half as good as today’s standards. That alone shows how far we have come.

Between the 1980s and now, the efficiency rate of solar panels has not only risen from around 15 per cent to over 20 per cent, the cost of producing these cells has come down dramatically to the point where you can have a highly efficient array  installed for just a few thousand dollars (after government rebates).

The benefits of higher solar panel efficiency

It is important to note that just because a solar panel has a higher efficiency rate, it doesn’t not necessarily make it the most superior option on the market. There are a number of factors to include like the manufacturer’s reputation and experience in the industry and the longevity of these solutions as well. But the higher the rate does mean you get some inevitable benefits, including:

Less solar panels

This not only means your installation will be cheaper because fewer panels are required, but it also means less roof space is required for a full installation. For those with limited room to work with, high efficiency panels are essential.

Reduced payback time

There is going to be out of pocket expenses to install these systems, even with up to 40 per cent off the bill courtesy of government STCs. The more efficient your panels are, the less time it is going to take for the savings to overtake the amount outlaid so you are in the profit zone.

Below is a list of the most efficient panels currently available on the market.

The most efficient solar panels in 2021

Most efficient residential solar panels as of February 2021:

ManufacturerModelMax power (W)Cell typeEfficiency %
SunPowerMaxeon 3400WN-type IBC22.6
LGNeon R380WN-type IBC22.0
RECAlpha380WN-type heterojunction H/C21.7
FuturaSunFU M Zebra360WN-type IBC half-cut21.3
Trina SolarVertex S400WP-type mono half-cut20.8
Jinko SolarTiger Pro 6Rl3390WN-type mono half-cut20.7
Q cellsQ.Peak DUO G9360WP-type mono half-cut20.6
WinaicoWST-375MG375WP-type mono half-cut20.6
Longi SolarHi-Mo 4375WP-type mono half-cut20.6
Solaria PowerXT370WP-type mono half-cut20.5
CandianSolarHiDM CS1H-MS345WP-type mono shingled20.4
Sumec Phono SolarTwinPlus M4-9B-R375WP-type mono half-cut20.4
AstroenergyAstroSemi 60M375WP-type mono half-cut20.3
HyundaiHiE-S355SG350WP-type mono shingled20.2
JA SolarJAM60S10345WP-type mono half-cut20.2
SeraphimSII Shingled365WP-type mono shingled20.2

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