Solar panels promise a lot – a cleaner, cheaper, renewable energy source, harnessed from the abundant rays of the sun. But the technology created to pull in that sun power can only go so far per square foot, depending on the panel.
SolarCity, the sun-powered startup founded by Elon Musk’s cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive, announced today that it has created the world’s most efficient solar panel, with a 22 percent module-level efficiency. Compare that to SunPower’s close rival X-Series panels at 21.5 percent module-level efficiency.
Bright, a startup out of Y Combinator that installs solar panels in Mexico, agreed that if SolarCity’s new panel is indeed producing a 22 percent module-level efficiency, it would make the panels the most efficient. At least on the surface.
“The big caveat is that once you use more expensive materials, such as GaAs, the efficiency for modules can go way up (north of 40 percent),” Bright founder Jonah Greenberger told TechCrunch.
SolarCity created its new panel via a proprietary process that it claims not only ups the performance, but also significantly reduces the manufacturing cost relative to other high-efficiency technologies at the same size as other solar panels, adding an additional 30 to 40 percent more power per panel.
The percentages of overall energy production and module-level can be confusing but don’t get lost in them. The gist is these panels promise to have a higher output at a lower production cost – and SolarCity says it is the most efficient solar panel at the moment, reducing waste – cuttings costs for both consumer and company and adding an attractive amount of power performance.
SolarCity backs up the claim with third-party, independent testing from the Renewable Energy Test Center, an energy services and certification testing facility for solar panel products.
The sun-powered provider expects to install these new panels on rooftops and carports, initially and then move to commercial installations.
SolarCity plans to produce a small batch of the new modules out of its 100 MW pilot facility in Fremont, California this month and then will move production to SolarCity’s 1 GW facility in Buffalo, N.Y. The company expects to produce 9,000 to 10,000 solar panels per day when production is in full swing.
The company recently announced an initiative to lower the cost of sun power for lower-income families. In a partnership with solar panel installation firm Everyday Energy, SolarCity will work with affordable-housing developers to install its solar systems in California.