(Photo Credit: © codrin / Fotolia)
Researchers in Australia have created a way to make a solar panel almost as efficient as coal. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, in partnership with the Australian-US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics, converted 40 percent of the sunlight hitting solar panels into usable electricity, setting a new record.
The of coal-fired plants around the globe is just 33 percent. The most efficient coal-fired plants reach just 45 percent efficiency.
To set the record number, researchers stacked three solar panels, each of which captured different waves of sunlight. Excess sunlight, which is typically lost in the process, was instead diverted to a fourth cell via a mirror and filters. "We used commercial solar cells, but in a new way, so these efficiency improvements are readily accessible to the solar industry," says Mark Keevers, the UNSW solar scientist who managed the project.
The group's next goal is to raise the panel's efficiency to 42 percent next year. Solar is thought to have a theoretical maximum efficiency of 86 percent, so there's still a long way to go. The research will be presented at the Australian PV Institute's Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference which begins today.