The modern solar panel was invented at Bell Labs in 1955. They supplied solar power to the first permanent NASA satellite in 1958. They are a perfect solution to supply power in space as they convert sunlight to electricity. Solar cells have been a permanent technology since then. The best residential solar panels provide electricity for many uses.Credit: NASA Public Domain Photo.
The solar cell is an old technology. Frenchman Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the photovoltaic effect of shining light on an electrode in 1839. The electricity it produced wasn’t of much practical value. Russell Ohl invented the solar cell, the component that makes modern solar cells practical.
Some materials release electrons when exposed to light. Other materials accept electrons when struck by light. Electricity is produced under these conditions when the electrons flow through a conductor. This is called the photo-electric effect and what makes modern solar panels practical.
Modern Solar Panels
Solar panel cost is going down, and they make electricity for a wide range of home applications. Small panels power attic fans, lights, swimming pool heaters, emergency roadside telephones and anything that needs electricity and sunlight is available.
Most panels require an inverter. Solar panels produce direct current, (DC) and household appliances operate on alternating current, (AC). Excess AC from solar panels can be sold back to the electric company. Inverter units can be a part of the panel.Credit: Public Domain by Pujank
SunPower is the most efficient, high end solar panel. It gives the most power per square foot, but it is also the most costly per watt. The best are 19% efficient, and their black unites are 18% efficient. This is 1/3 more efficient than the average crystalline unit coverts sunlight into electricity. Some users buy the black units for aesthetic purposes as they blend into the environment.
One negative is SunPower solar panel instillation and purchase can only be done by manufacturer approved companies. This provides a guarantee of performance and workmanship.
Most innovative: Westinghouse
Westinghouse solar panels deliver AC current without the use of an inverter to convert direct current to alternating current. This design allows units to operate separately instead of strung together in groups of four. For example; if one unit is shaded, it doesn’t affect the amount of electricity the others produce. These panels can be installed individually rather than a group.
Westinghouse solar panels are available from Westinghouse dealers, and Lowe’s.
Koycera is a lower efficiency solar panel, but is also more cost effective. It is priced at a point where it is a bargain for the amount of energy it produces. Koycera has a 20 year warranty on the panels.
The government offers Federal tax credits to use solar panels. These credits and selling excess electricity to the power company makes these units attractive purchases. These units will become more efficient and cost effective as the technology progresses. Cheaper materials will made adaptable as companies work to produce a cheaper, efficient unit. As they become more common solar panel price will come down, and more places to buy solar panels will appear.