More Efficient and Affordable Solar Power: Developments that are Changing the Industry
Solar power was discovered over 170 years ago, but it didn't become a viable technology until the 1950s. The high cost of producing solar cells meant that the concept remained in limited use up until recently. Renewed interest in solar power has brought investment and research that vastly improved the collection capacity of the cells. The following are three innovations that have lowered the cost, increased efficiency and made obtaining a setup that much easier.
1. Thin-Film Solar Collection Cells Can Cut Costs by Half
Ask anyone what they think a solar power system looks like. Most likely their response will be that it is a large, window-like set up that has black panels set on a frame. This is the most well-known type of solar collection system, known as crystalline panels. These panels kept the overall costs high, as they require a high degree of quality control to build. Thin film solar cells are nothing like the crystalline panels. They are thin and flexible, often shipped rolled up. Manufacturing a panel is akin to printing on paper, which has reduced the price of an individual cell. Ease of construction has brought the price of a thin-film panel costs around $1 a watt. Compare that to the cost of crystalline panels, which cost in the $2 a watt range.
2. Micro-Inverters Increase the Affordability of Solar Power Systems
The inverter is the lynchpin of a solar power setup. Power that is generated from the solar panels is direct current (DC), and needs to be converted into alternating current (AC). The inverter does the job of current conversion. It is a necessary item because most household appliances run off AC, and cannot operate on DC. Inverters on old systems were expensive, bulky and created a lot of excess heat. The price of the least expensive unit pushed the overall cost of a modest solar power setup to more than $10,000.
The invention of microinverters has reduced the startup cost of a solar power system to around $1,000, one-tenth the price of a traditional setup. This drastic price drop has opened up access to more people who want a small solar power system, but couldn't afford it otherwise.
3. New Panel Rack Systems have Decreased the Overall Cost of Installation
A large portion of the cost for a solar power setup is the labor that goes into mounting the solar panel racks. Installing the bolts into the roof, then setting up the panel rails is a tedious and time-consuming job.