By Arman Kazemi
October 15, 2015
Competition in the realm of solar power has heated up, with Panasonic announcing it has created the world’s most efficient solar panels, a title U.S. manufacturer SolarCity had claimed just a few days before.
The Japanese electronics manufacturer has built a solar panel that successfully converts 22.5 per cent of sunlight into electricity using a commercial-scale prototype module, according to a press release.
On Oct. 2, SolarCity announced it had built a panel with a module efficiency of 22.04 per cent, thanks to proprietary technology that “produces 30-40 per cent more power,” with panels that are the same size as its standard efficiency models.
More efficient solar panels could reduce system costs and help solar power to become cost-competitive with oil and gas.
Panasonic’s prototype model will be produced at its solar fabrication facilities in Malaysia. For its part, SolarCity will begin churning out its own rooftop panels in small quantities by month’s end, before moving production to its one-gigawatt facility in Buffalo, New York, where it expects to produce up to 10,000 panels per day.
SolarCity has had its gaze set on making residential solar cost-competitive for some time. And with a major government subsidy for solar power set to expire, the race to lower costs is on.
The U.S. Solar Investment Tax Credit, a 30 per cent tax credit for residential and commercial solar systems, will decline to 10 per cent for businesses and zero for homeowners at the end of 2016.
The looming expiration of this important subsidy has thrown the future of U.S. solar power development into question. But increases in efficiency like those promised by SolarCity and Panasonic could help to make the industry self-sufficient.