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.

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:

Manufacturer Model Max power (W) Cell type Efficiency %
SunPower Maxeon 3 400W N-type IBC 22.6
LG Neon R 380W N-type IBC 22.0
REC Alpha 380W N-type heterojunction H/C 21.7
FuturaSun FU M Zebra 360W N-type IBC half-cut 21.3
Trina Solar Vertex S 400W P-type mono half-cut 20.8
Jinko Solar Tiger Pro 6Rl3 390W N-type mono half-cut 20.7
Q cells Q.Peak DUO G9 360W P-type mono half-cut 20.6
Winaico WST-375MG 375W P-type mono half-cut 20.6
Longi Solar Hi-Mo 4 375W P-type mono half-cut 20.6
Solaria Power XT 370W P-type mono half-cut 20.5
CandianSolar HiDM CS1H-MS 345W P-type mono shingled 20.4
Sumec Phono Solar TwinPlus M4-9B-R 375W P-type mono half-cut 20.4
Astroenergy AstroSemi 60M 375W P-type mono half-cut 20.3
Hyundai HiE-S355SG 350W P-type mono shingled 20.2
JA Solar JAM60S10 345W P-type mono half-cut 20.2
Seraphim SII Shingled 365W P-type mono shingled 20.2