Solar Power | More Efficient Solar Panels – Turning Wasted Heat Into Renewable Power
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Solar Power | More Efficient Solar Panels – Turning Wasted Heat Into Renewable Power

The photovoltaic cells used in solar panels turn the sun’s light into useful, renewable energy. Most people may not know this but there has always been one major concern about photovoltaic technology–it becomes less efficient when heated up. Photovoltaic cells can only use a certain portion of the light spectrum from the sun, so the rest of the sun’s energy winds up producing excess heat–which until now was wasted.

Now, new technological devices may be able to use the heat that the solar panels produce to create more green electricity. This new technology could possible make

solar panels significantly more efficient. Where as photovoltaic technology is less effective at high temperatures, the new heat-conversion process is actually more effective at high temperatures.

While solar systems work effectively for their purposes, they could be a whole lot more effective. Over 50 percent of the solar energy that first hits the photovoltaic cells is lost in the current process due to inherent inefficiencies in the cells and rising temperatures in solar panels as they are being used. “Solar panels get very hot and their efficiency goes down,” said Charles Stafford, associate professor of physics at the University of Arizona. “You could harvest some of that heat and use it to generate additional electricity while simultaneously cooling the panel and making its own photovoltaic process more efficient.”

The semiconducting material silicon is used in the majority of photovoltaic cells. However, silicon solar cells typically cease producing electricity once they have reached about 100 degrees Celsius. New semiconducting materials like gallium nitride have been shown to work at temperatures far higher than this.

In addition to making solar systems more effective, this new technology could also be applied in factories, transportation, power plants, and more–all of which produce large amounts of wasted heat that could be converted into energy.

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