SolarCity’s New Solar Panels Bring the Heat to Alternative Energy

Solar panels have been popping up all kinds of places lately: on those little bobbing flowers from the Dollar Store, cell phone cases, patio lights from Ikea, an entire line of toys at Chapters, lights for construction sites, speed displays in playground zones, and depending where you live, on the rooftops of local houses and businesses. Solar power is becoming a thing, and on October 2nd 2015, SolarCity made an announcement that they hope will make it an even bigger thing.

SolarCity, an American company backed by Elon Musk (the man behind SpaceX and Tesla), unveiled what they call the “world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel.” The new panel, which combines a traditional crystalline panel with a silicon model, has a 22.04% module level of efficiency as opposed to many commercially available panels with efficiencies of 15-20%. While the panel is the same size as standard-efficiency panels, it outputs 30-40% more power and outperforms in higher temperatures, producing even more energy annually by comparison. Peter Rive, co-founder and CTO of SolarCity, did note that the 22% efficiency panel was at the high end of the scale, but pointed out that a majority are hitting 21.8%. Competing solar panel company, SunPower, claims to have an efficiency of 21.5% with its X-Series panels, and that some panels are seeing a 22% efficiency. A race for highest efficiency can only mean good things for the future of solar panels, and both companies appear to be “neck and neck” on the leader board.

SolarCity’s announcement is certainly exciting in the world of solar panelling, both for scientists and consumers; however, efficiency is only part of the novelty. Despite putting the SolarCity panels through a process to deposit a layer of amorphous silicon, the panels cost much less than previously manufactured panels. This is because the silicon layer process costs less than the masking, patterning and etching process used by competitors like SunPower. The new panels will most likely be installed on rooftops and carports initially, but SolarCity is quick to point out that they would be perfect for large-scale, ground level installations too.

The less expensive panels come at a pivotal time for the U.S. with the outcome of the upcoming election playing a major part in determining government incentives for renewable energy. Once up and running in 2017, SolarCity’s new factory in Buffalo, New York may be faced with a federal tax credit that has been greatly reduced or even discontinued if the Republicans win, which could result in big losses.

Politics in Canada, on the other hand, appear to be more favourable to the renewable energy sector. The Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity (CanCore), designed to encourage Canada’s electricity grid be powered with clean, renewable energy, even went so far as to congratulate the newly elected Liberal government. Their media statement points out several areas of support promised by the party during the campaign.

Promises like shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to clean technology, collaborating with provinces on an energy strategy (including using more clean, renewable energy), and investing in the growth and development of clean technology. Likewise, Alberta Premiere Rachel Notley pledged to phase-out the use of coal for electricity, instead converting to renewable energy alternatives such as wind and solar.

Since solar energy is the cleanest renewable energy source there is, and there’s copious amounts of it around, Canadians would be remiss to not take advantage of the ability afforded us by today’s technology and employ the light of the sun. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that by 2050, the sun could be our biggest source of electricity, beating out fossil fuels, wind, hydro and nuclear.

These promising developments can only mean one thing: Mission LEDs and solar panels would make a great team in the quest to be more energy efficient and lower our electrical costs. Make sure to follow us on twitter and check out our facebook page for more inspiring tips on making the world a greener place.

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About The Author

John Keirstead
John Keirstead
Serial Entrepreneur, Technologist and Inventor.
My objective is to develop useful products that have a net positive effect in the lives of those that use them and the environment that we live in.
CEO of Mission LED Lighting Company Ltd.

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