Solar panels have continued to improve in capacity, effectiveness and size since their early inception. While capacity and effectiveness remain top priorities for researchers and manufacturers alike, the ability to improve these elements while reducing the size and weight of the panels themselves remains important. Not only does this enable lower production and shipping costs, but it also increases the number of places where solar panels can be utilized safely and efficiently. One company that is continuing to make strides forward in this area is First Solar. First Solar is a sector leader in thin film solar technology. Their existing panels are believed to be already outperforming multi-crystalline solar panels; being able to produce around 8% more energy on an annual basis. The effect of this improvement can be felt consumers in both the commercial and private sectors, with lower costs for you, the end user, including in relation to solar panel installation. However, the caveat at the moment is that this improved performance is only seen at temperatures higher than 25 °C. Despite this, it is still understood that by the end of 2017, First Solar’s Cadmium Telluride thin film panels will consistently produce more power and generally perform better than p-type crystalline solar panels of comparable size. Understanding the importance of this step forward begins with understanding the difference between the two type of solar panels:
- A p-type multi-crystalline solar panel is comprised of raw silicon that has been melted and poured into molds; it is cost efficient when compared to monocrystalline products and produces less waste silicon in the manufacturing process. However, the efficiency of this solar power system means that large areas need to be covered to gain real advantage from solar energy.
- Using Cadmium Telluride in solar panels is highly cost efficient, due in part to the lower cost of the raw materials. Older versions of these panels were less effective than their crystalline counterparts and, therefore, more of them were needed for the same energy creation, which negated the initial cost savings. However, if the Cadmium Telluride thin film panels produced by First Solar can overcome this, then the way is open for them to become market leaders.