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How Much Electricity Do Solar Cells Produce?

Solar cell efficiency tells us how much of the solar insolation that reaches the cell is converted into electricity. The solar cells which are used in conventional photovoltaic panels are usually single junction cells with solar cell efficiency around 15%. Solar cells are continuously being improved by scientists, thus increasing solar cell efficiency.
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Solar cell efficiency usually falls between 12.5 -15 % and describes how much solar energy is actually converted into solar power, in relation to the solar insolation that reaches the cell.

In laboratories, scientists continue to work on solar cell efficiency. While best results for traditional solar cells lie around 22%, multi-junction cells have reached a solar cell efficiency of 42%. Commercial tandem cells are already available at 30% in real sunlight and up to 40% under concentrated sunlight. Solar cells made of crystalline silicon are now approaching the theoretical limiting solar cell efficiency of 29%.

Increasing solar cell efficiency has a major effect on the price however. Highly efficient solar cells are often too expensive for commercial production and are mainly used for scientific purposes.

Solar cell efficiency can be broken down into several parameters like reflectance efficiency, thermodynamic efficiency, charge carrier separation efficiency and conductive efficiency. These aspects add up to the overall solar cell efficiency.

It is difficult to measure some of the solar cell efficiency parameters directly. So other parameters, that provide the necessary information, are measured instead. To calculate reflectance losses, the quantum efficiency is measured, for example. Other parameters that help determine solar cell efficiency are thermodynamic efficiency, quantum efficiency, VOC ratio, and fill factor.

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Written by: Christian Märtel, Editor