A new world record for solar power output has just been announced by Trina Solar, fresh on the heels of the company’s record-setting solar cell efficiency announcement. Given the rapid pace of clean tech development, all of this record setting stuff is starting to sound like another case of dog bites man, right? Well, this one is a little more interesting in the context of the current train wreck that’s occurring in the US oil and natural gas marketplace.
Solar Cell Efficiency And Power Output — Why They Don’t Matter
Let’s note up front that if you’re shopping around for solar panels for your home or business, you can pretty much ignore the stats on solar cell efficiency and power output records. Find a reputable dealer and have a conversation about the best solar energy deal for your property. While lab metrics are critical to advance the technology, you could end up getting good value out of relatively low efficiency, but less costly, solar panels.
For that matter, in today’s solar marketplace you might not need to do all that much shopping around to get a good deal. For example, major companies are starting to bulk-purchase solar installations and offer them at a discount to their employees, as a perk.
Home builders are also beginning to offer smart home packages featuring pre-installed solar panels, along with built-in EV charging stations and other clean tech goodies.
Then there’s power purchase agreements, in which you’re virtually guaranteed that your electricity costs per kilowatt hour won’t be going anywhere — and will most likely go down.
Solar Cell Efficiency And Power Output — Why They Matter
On the other hand, every time we hear about a new solar energy record, we’re thinking that the fossil fuel sector is getting another punch in the gut.
That’s because once you get a solar panel up and running (or for that matter, a wind turbine), you don’t have to keep paying out for fuel to keep it running.
Even without the 800-pound gorilla in the room (yes we mean you, global warming), in its relatively short history the extractive model for electricity generation has already proven to be unsustainable. It is highly vulnerable to boom-and-bust cycles that leave communities stranded in an economic no-man’s land, with job loss compounded by a legacy of contaminated sites thwarting new development.
Where were we? Oh, right. Trina. The new announcement covers the company’s “Honey Plus” multi-crystalline silicon photovoltaic module.
The module consists of 60 Honey Plus cells, and it has been certified for a power output of 324.5Wp by TUV Rheinland. For those of you new to the topic, Wp is short for Watt – peak, meaning that’s the maximum power capacity of the module under the best conditions, so refer back to our earlier point: you don’t particularly need to know that if you’re looking for a good deal on solar panels.
What you do need to know is that fossil fuel demand is already stagnating here in the US even as the economy picks up. That’s the result of new energy efficiency technology along with more renewables in the marketplace — and that’s even before more efficient, more powerful next-generation clean technology hits the sales floor.
Trina’s Honey Plus is a good example. The solar cell efficiency record Trina set back in November (confirmed by Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE lab) clocked in at 20.76 percent for the p-type PERC cell, and now the company has a nice power output record in its pocket, too. That output record was achieved with the help of a couple of new solar technologies that are still in the pilot production phase.
That would be a new back surface passivation and back surface field (back surface refers to the bottom or rear part of the solar cell), so once production moves out of the pilot phase you’re going to see those improvements in the marketplace.
Trina’s Secret Sauce
For a relatively new company, Trina sure is going places in a hurry and one good reason for that is the company’s establishment of the State Key Laboratory of PV Science & Technology as a built-in feature of the corporate structure.
According to Trina’s press materials, the lab, which was blessed by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology in 2010, and it has been tapped by the World Economic Forum “as a case study illustrating how corporate and government can collaborate to promote, support and invest in innovation and technological development.”
Not for nothing but the next time you hear certain US state and federal legislators complaining about government support for clean tech companies, consider Trina, China, and the reality of the global energy marketplace.