LONDON, UK: The future of solar panels is looking even brighter. New research by Cambridge University scientists has led to the development of a more efficient solar cell.
Currently, solar cells capture part of the sun's light. Much of the energy of the absorbed light is lost as heat, meaning a maximum of 34 percent of the sunlight is converted to electrical power. However, Cambridge scientists have made a breakthrough, which could allow 44 percent of solar energy to be converted. More work needs to be done to realise the full benefits of the scientists' findings, but even using today's solar PV panels is providing huge savings for businesses and householders.
Boston Council in Lincolnshire recently installed solar panels on the roof of a leisure complex at a cost of £105,167. The investment is expected to recover its costs within nine years and generate a profit of at least £260,000 over the next 25 years. Boston Borough Council leader Peter Bedford said the energy-saving income generated may also be higher than anticipated - closer to 80 or 90 percent rather than the 50 percent allowed for, so the energy saving may be more.
He said: "Our investment in solar PV represents a good deal for the council, providing low-carbon clean energy and also making the facility less vulnerable to future energy price increases at a time of global insecurity."
Homeowners can make comparable savings by installing solar panels. Energy suppliers such as British Gas pay for any excess electricity generated as it's fed back to the National Grid. You can even earn money for every kilowatt hour of electricity you generate through the Government's Feed-in Tariff (also known as Clean Energy Cashback), even if you use it.
An average system is 3 kWp and will cost around £10,000 (including VAT at 5 percent). Most domestic PV systems cost around £3,000 to £3,500 per kWp installed. A 3 kWp system can generate over 2,500 kilowatt hours of electricity a year. If your system is eligible for the Feed-In Tariff scheme it could generate savings and income of around £670 per year.
Solar energy is going to become more efficient and even cheaper to install. According to Jenny Chase, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, solar power is now cheaper than diesel 'anywhere as sunny as Spain'. The economy of scale through increased global use will soon mean cheaper solar panels and electricity for everyone.