Measuring Solar Cell Efficiency

When measuring solar cell efficiency, there are several different methods that come into play. This is precisely the reason that solar technology hasn’t been advancing as rapidly as one might expect, especially when we look at the perennially rising prices of other types of fuel and energy. Alas, it seems that solar energy won’t truly take off until we find more appropriate ways to consolidate the idea of solar cell efficiency. Luckily, we can at least take respite in the fact that the various methods of determining the aptitude of solar cell efficiency are generally on the mark and pretty advanced. It is these methods that we are going to take a look at now in order to give you a fuller idea of what efficiency means in terms of solar cells.

One of the more prominent ways to gauge solar cell efficiency is in the realm of energy conversion. In order to find the energy conversion rate of a solar cell you must first determine said cell’s maximum power point. Once that is figured out, this number is divided by the irradiance of the input light as well as the overall surface area of whatever solar cell you are using. This process is far less complicated then it seems but the fact of the matter is that it still seems complicated. What makes matters worse is that you then have to correspond that final figure into the amount of sunlight being displayed on any given day at any given time.

If you thought energy conversion seemed overly complex, we’d now like to introduce that measurement’s esoteric cousin: Quantum efficiency. In this method, the overall percentage of converted photons is gauged. This is actually a pretty accurate way of figuring out solar cell efficiency because you cut through the treacle of photons that are simply reflected or otherwise unused. Whereas the previous method of measurement involved fractions, Quantum efficiency likes to play in the realm of percentages. The key to determining the true efficiency of a solar cell lies somewhere in between these two figures.

There are still more intricate ways of figuring out solar cell efficiency and these include maximum power point and thermodynamic limits. The sad thing, though, is that even after all these variables are tallied and a final number is determined, it still does little to explain to us exactly what the numbers mean. In general, though, you’re likely to find the efficiency rating of a solar cell to be measured with a percentage. This is a good thing for the less scientific among us because it gives us a way to compare various solar cells. Still, the disparate percentages range from six percent to over fifty percent in some instances and even those figures don’t necessarily entail how bright or powerful a cell is. Until we can sit down and really streamline solar cell efficiency measurement, it is likely that this exciting and beneficial form of energy will never achieve its rightful popularity.

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Posted under Renewable Energy

This post was written by assistant on January 25, 2011

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