Whether it’s China, the United States, India or Japan, the world is taking monumental strides towards adopting renewable energy. Last year, the world was able to double its solar power capacity. As we all know, greater efficiency gives way to access – and in the solar power industry that translates into lower prices. It’s a snowball effect that starts with research, moves into development, and eventually, ends up benefiting the end consumer. That’s why it’s especially exciting to hear that Japanese company Kaneko recently broke the efficiency record for solar panels.
The Global Renewable Energy Movement
The solar power movement is having a systemic global impact. In China, for example, home to 1.25 billion people, has strategically moved away from fossil fuels in favor of solar energy. According to China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), “the country has more than doubled its solar energy production in 2016 – making them the biggest producer of solar energy (in terms of capacity) in the world.”
India, in the hopes of becoming the third-largest solar market, is home to a 6-square mile 648 MW solar farm – the largest in the world. The U.S., the second-largest market behind China, has over 260,000 people employed in the solar industry according to a survey released by The Solar Foundation:
“Solar employs slightly more workers than natural gas, over twice as many as coal, over three times that of wind energy, and almost five times the number employed in nuclear energy. Only oil/petroleum has more employment (by 38%) than solar.”
Kaneko’s New Efficiency Approach
With Japan’s recent solar efficient record, which now stands at 26.6%, there’s now a new approach poised to revolutionize the industry even further. According to Kaneko’s study published in Nature Energy, the approach uses “thin-film heterojunction (HJ) optimization inside individual cells to minimize the space where electrons can’t exist.” The band gaps – as they call them – collect more photons and lead to a more efficient panel.
This new discovery means only one thing for consumers: solar power prices will eventually drop. It’s a simple equation: if panels are cheaper to produce then it will cost less for the customer installing them on their home, or better yet – a more cost-effective way to build a solar farm.
Making Solar Panels More Affordable
“Improving the photoconversion efficiency of silicon solar cells is crucial to further the deployment of renewable electricity.” With the photoconversion efficiency now over 26% (an improvement of 2.7 points) thanks to the team at Kaneko, investments in the solar energy level will start trickling down to the state and municipality levels. A recent $1.5 billion investment in New York, for example, allowed the state to increase its solar power usage by almost 800% from 83.06 MW in 2011 to 743.65 MW in 2016.
The recent breaking of the solar panel efficiency record may seem like a small percentage gain, but in actuality, the eventually impact is much larger in scale.