Solar systems have become an integral part of our daily life. Purchasing a solar generator is always worthwhile. You should only deal with the topic in advance. Here you will find everything you need to know about solar panels.
What is a solar panel?
A solar module uses solar radiation and converts it into electricity. This is achieved by solar cells distributed across the panel. Depending on the quality, a solar panel differs in its efficiency. The better this is, the better electricity can be generated from solar radiation. This can then be temporarily stored in a 12v lithium battery.
A solar panel is available in different dimensions, but they are mostly rectangular. The small solar panels are just as big as your hand. There are almost no limits in size and huge solar systems are based on solar panels that are several meters in size.
In addition, you will also find numerous variants online that are more in the handy range. These can be partially folded, are waterproof, flexible or connected directly to a battery. The selection is particularly large in the camping segment.
How much electricity a solar panel can generate depends on the external weather conditions. Direct sunlight is most effective, clouds reduce power generation. Logically, a solar panel is more effective in summer than in winter.
The history of solar panels?
Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the effect of photoelectrons at the age of 19. He measured the flow of current between two circuit boards and realized that they conducted slightly more current in sunlight than in the dark.
More than 30 years later, research really got going. Willoughby Smith, a British engineer, discovered that the material selenium developed different resistances to electricity depending on the intensity of the light that hit it. After this discovery, further research was undertaken by different characters.
Three years after this discovery, Richard Evans Day and William Grylls Adams observed and documented that selenium could generate electricity when exposed to light. This discovery was groundbreaking, even if the current was not sufficient to supply electrical components at the time with enough power. However, the proof that solid material could generate electricity was provided.
Many years of research passed and were consolidated with various milestones. For example in 1883, when the first solar panel was made from selenium. Albert Einstein’s theoretical explanation of the effect was recognized by experts with a Nobel Prize and was therefore also the incentive to practically confirm the effect of solar cells, which the physicist Robert Andrews Millikan succeeded in doing in 1916 and was also recognized with a Nobel Prize.
Where are solar panels made?
A large part of the global production takes place in China. Two out of three modules come from this country. This is due to the high production capability of Chinese industrial plants. The resulting drop in prices has led many European and American companies into insolvency. The demand for maximum quality has always kept the price high in the western part of the world, while Chinese brands are much cheaper with high quality.
There are also subsidies from the Chinese government, which have made the productions even cheaper. This has led to European solar cells being used more in the industrial sector, where the highest possible efficiency is important. In the consumer sector, on the other hand, Chinese components have prevailed, as their financing is significantly lower and the price-performance ratio is more attractive.
The following overview will help you to identify which country produces the most solar cells among the top 5 global manufacturers:
- China (70%)
- Canada (11%)
- Germany (7%)
- United States (7%)
- Taiwan (5%)
What are the different types of solar panels?
Even if the basic physical effect of a solar panel is always the same, regardless of the type of manufacture, different types have emerged. Below you will find out what these are and what advantages and disadvantages each type has.
Monocrystalline solar panels
The highest quality way to manufacture a solar panel is the monocrystalline solar cell. As the name suggests, the cells are made using single-crystal silicon rods that are sliced into the solar panel. According to the current state of research, the efficiency is high and converts 20% of the sunlight into electricity. However, since the process is very complex, it is also one of the most expensive. Therefore, monocrystalline solar panels are used where only limited space is available in order to be able to generate maximum effectiveness. These cells can mainly be found on technical devices such as speed cameras, parking ticket machines or solar lights.
Polycrystalline solar panels
With a solar panel, which was also made of polycrystalline silicon, the efficiency is about 12 to 16%. The silicon is not precisely cut, but cast. However, the so-called casting process leads to different thicknesses in the material. A cast material is in turn significantly cheaper than the monocrystalline cells. This cell type has therefore prevailed on the market with priority. Solar systems on roofs or entire solar parks are made of this material. Due to the lower price, large systems are more affordable and thus allow the material to be used over a large area.
Thin film modules
Thin-film modules are the most inefficient way of generating electricity from light. Its material consists of silicon and cadmium, which is sprayed onto a thin carrier material. The efficiency is only 4-10%. The advantage of this type of production is the enormous flexibility of the material. The solar panel that results from this manufacturing process can be produced extremely cheaply, making it affordable for use in calculators, clothing, and ultimately in solar power systems.
What are the pros and cons of Chinese solar panels?
As already mentioned, a Chinese-made solar panel has a very good price-performance ratio, as it costs almost 35% less than a German-made one. However, if you take a closer look at the environmental aspect, Chinese modules are far behind. Apart from the transport from China to Europe, which already has a major impact on the environmental balance by ship or truck, the environmental aspect is not taken into account during production.
A Chinese manufacturing workshop requires almost 50% more energy to produce a solar panel than American or European factories. This means that the systems from the Far East have to be in operation for longer in order to compensate for this ecological disadvantage. While a German solar panel needs less than two years to recoup its production costs, a Chinese module takes at least two to 2.5 years.
Another disadvantage is the warranty and rectification of defects. Since the place of jurisdiction for companies from the Far East is in China, it is difficult to admonish claims for defects. If you buy from a German retailer, regardless of where they get their products from, this is not a disadvantage for you.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of German solar panels?
German solar panels are more expensive than the competition from China. This is due to low energy and personnel costs in the Far East. If you buy solar panels from German production, you benefit from extensive guarantees and a German place of jurisdiction. You also promote the domestic economy.
How much does a solar panel cost?
As with any technical development, the price of energy sources falls the more frequently it is produced. The price of a solar panel is not calculated in square meters, since the different quality levels make this statement vague. Therefore, a solar panel is specified according to the maximum watt output per 1000 euros investment. The more watts a panel can output, the faster an investment of 1000 euros pays for itself.
This relationship between watt maintenance and investment has been getting better and better over the last 10 years. The electricity received has more than tripled for every 1000 euros invested, although this development has slowed down in the last four years.
A Chinese-made polycrystalline solar module with 300 W/p costs just under 100 euros, while an equivalent product made in Germany costs just under 150 euros. A complete solar system costs around €8-10,000 with a solar storage tank around €13-20,000.
You’ll need to track your home’s monthly electricity usage, as well as the hours of light in your home each day, to estimate how many watts of solar panels you’ll need to buy.