Your Questions About Solar Panel Efficiency

Lisa asks…

Why don't more cars use solar panels to increase energy efficiency?

For instance, solar panels on the roof could give much needed energy to take some stress off of the car battery. And also, what about wind power? When driving down the highway, wouldn't it be possible to use some of that wind resistance for power? Any thoughts on this?

ssadmin answers:

Logistics prevent it- solar panels would not be worth having because of their own size and wind resistance. Wind power requires some kind of turbine, and again, the size and where to put it to be useful? Maybe in the future, but we don't have it yet.

Chris asks…

Can I find a good modular home builder that specializes in energy efficiency or even solar paneling in Alabama?

Birmingham / Gadsden / Anniston / Huntsville areas. I looked at All-American homes but they don't have anything close by. I have been talking with Clayton Homes, but they seem to have mixed reviews online and don't specialize in anything like that. Thanks.
I did contact Redman, but they don't have anything in Alabama.

ssadmin answers:

Contact contractors in your area. Ask them if they have built modular homes before and if they know of green modular manufacturers. Then get referrals.

Linda asks…

Are there any tax incentives for solar panels and/or high efficiency pool heaters?

we had an older heatpump and wpuld like to upgrade to more efficient model and ad solar panels to help reduce cost..

ssadmin answers:

Most states do. Check with your state governement. They will give you a certain percentage off of the price of the unit on your income tax return.

Joseph asks…

What causes low efficiency of solar panels?

ssadmin answers:

Oh this is perfect, I make them for a living at Solyndra. Well, there are two types of panels first of all. CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenium) which is a mix of metals that when mixed together produce a semiconductor (Gallium is technically already one). Then there are Silicon based solar panels which are far more efficient and slightly more expensive. The difference between the two is anywhere between 10-15% depending on manufacturers and design.

The glass shielding the panel is VERY important. If you used standard window glass you lose about 15% of the light, which seems odd since windows are clear and all. Yet solar panels use a special glass which contains no Iron. Sometimes when you look at the edge of a piece of glass you can see a greenish hue to it. Thats bad in the solar industry and different companies use different grades of iron free glass.

Another thing to note is a thin protective layer they place on the solar film to essentially “trap” the light by allowing more of it to stick. Much research has been done in this area after studying the eye of a moth. A moth's eye catches virtually all light and many solar manufacturing companies R&D team are implementing this skin on their solar panels via nano technology. This should bump up efficiency a modest sounding yet significant 3%.

If you were wondering why one panel produces more than another of same shape/size then it would come down to the chemical compound the manufacturer chose. At my company we use the CIGS method and have a very secretive formula, I don't even know about it. Rest assured though that every manufacturer has a team of chemical engineers figuring the best “blend”. Essentially it is how do you make a semiconductor have the perfect balance of valence electrons while maintaining a consistent and uncontaminated mixture.

Oh another thing, contamination! All solar panels must be manufactured in a complete vacuum, I do mean a COMPLETE vacuum too. Some of our defective products to get through too even though we have top grade quality control. If we operated at a 100 ppm (100 parts per million), then we would have to scrap the panel. Would not be consistent and one part of the panel will produce more than the other, causing a problem down the road for the consumer.

Weather plays a role with efficiency too. Our panels are tubes and very light weight (however bad efficiency), so in the snow the light reflects from it and bounces up to our panels while a typical flat panel just gets covered.

So long story short, it is the mixture of chemicals (whether CIGS or Silicon) that really play the biggest role. Followed by protection/skins, then it would be the weather and physical design. Actually, physical design is probably right up there with protection and light absorbing skins.

Also coming up for future panels (other manufacturers, not us necessarily). Bird poop resistant panels (they poop on them a lot). Mold resistant casings and designs. Should be coming out within a couple years, its pretty tricky I guess.

Mark asks…

If I have a solar panel 0.1m by 0.1m with an efficiency of 10%, how much power would it produce?

This is in direct sunlight, but also, how much power would it produce if i left it on a windowsill behind a double glazed window?
I know its a very small amount – but i would quite like to know what that small amount is.

ssadmin answers:

You can get about 10 watts per square foot, or 100 per square meter, so you are at about the 1 watt level. That is in direct bright sunlight with the panel at right angle to the sun's rays.

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