There are a lot of reasons solar panels are getting cheaper, among them the leasing programs being offered by companies such as SolarCity. Today, the company announced it has created the most efficient rooftop solar panel in the world.
Elon Musk is the chairman of SolarCity, which his cousins Peter and Lyndon Rive started in 2006. The new panels have a module efficiency of 22 percent, compared to SunPower’s X-Series panels’ 21.5 percent. That means 22 percent of the power from the sun is converted into useful electrical power. SolarCity isn’t saying much about how the new panels work, only that its proprietary process increases efficiency, while also lowering the cost of manufacturing. The panels have layers of different types of silicon and could eventually produce electricity on both sides, according to The New York Times.
The Renewable Energy Test Center, a third-party certification testing facility, confirmed the rating, which should allow the panels to produce between 30 and 40 percent more power, according to SolarCity. It’s not exactly clear what that percentage is compared to, as John Farrell, Director of the Democratic Energy Program for The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, tells Mashable. It could be compared to the company’s current panels or competitors’. It also is not clear how uniform that 22 percent is in mass production.
At its yet-to-open factory in Buffalo, SolarCity will eventually scale its production of the panels to between 9,000 and 10,000 per day. In the meantime, it will manufacture them at its 100 MW pilot facility, which is located in Fremont, California and, as it happens, is the former Solyndra factory, according to Fortune.
The company won’t be manufacturing all its own panels, though. Demand is simply too high, and so it will continue to use panels made by Canadian Solar, Trina Solar, and Yingli Green Energy, which are made in China, according to Reuters.
The rooftop panels could soon be coming to a home, business, or school near you.