By Sarah Lozanova, Solar Writer
Technological advances have transformed the solar energy industry in recent years. Solar panels are significantly more efficient, producing more power in the same amount of space. Meanwhile, prices continue to fall, reducing the cost of solar electricity.
But with the introduction of new technologies comes uncertainty. Which solar panels are the most reliable and durable? What technology creates the least amount of pollution in the manufacturing process? Do panel manufacturers use recycled components or provide solar panel recycling options at the end of life? Let’s explore some of these critical issues in the pursuit of the best solar panels on the market.
We compared the efficiency, warranty, environmental performance, and more of the following solar panel models in the comparison chart below.
A Dynamic Industry
At times, supply delays and surpluses have plagued the solar industry. For example, China slashed solar subsidies for domestic solar installations in May 2018. This move created a lag in demand, causing a surplus of solar panels and falling prices across the industry. More recently, the Trump administration enacted a U.S. solar tariff on panels, but this is tapering down. Also, the federal tax credit was extended by two years at 26%, effective in 2021.
Because solar panel technology is advancing, the market is very dynamic. New products are frequently being released as others become obsolete. The cost of advanced solar batteries has been dropping as demand has surged. The most efficient solar panels on the market today will probably not seem so efficient in a decade as the technology matures. Companies that are relatively unknown could capture a larger share of the market.
Solar Panel Considerations
Solar panels have become significantly more efficient in recent years. And the more efficient a solar panel is, the more electricity it generates in a given space. Space becomes more critical when there are constraints due to the size of your roof or property.
Unfortunately, more efficient panels typically cost more. If space isn’t an issue, efficiency becomes less crucial. For installations limited by space, panel efficiency is an essential consideration. It is also important to consider the long-term efficiency of solar modules.
By Sarah Lozanova, Solar PV Writer
U.S. solar generation capacity is soaring. Construction began recently on the Samson Solar Energy Center, the largest planned solar energy farm in the United States. When completed, the solar farm will have 1,013 megawatts of generating capacity. This solar farm will be considerably larger than the 690 MW Gemini solar project with battery storage under construction outside of Las Vegas, which had been the largest project in the U.S.
Invenergy is developing the Samson solar farm, which will span three counties in Northeast Texas near the Oklahoma border. The project will create an estimated 600 construction jobs and $450 million in tax revenue and landowner lease payments. Developers are planning construction in five phases, with a 2023 expected completion date.
Texas is a leader in renewable energy production in the U.S. due to its excellent solar and wind energy resources. It leads in the nation in installed wind energy capacity and trails California for installed solar energy capacity.
Who will purchase the solar energy?
Corporations have already signed virtual Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) for Samson’s solar electricity. “The Samson Solar Energy Center is the latest example of what can be achieved when companies and utilities seek an innovative partner to meet their sustainability goals and invest in a clean energy future,” said Ted Romaine, senior vice president of origination at Invenergy.
The largest share, 500 MW, will go to AT&T, which says it will be the biggest corporate U.S. solar deal to date. This agreement is a big step forward in AT&T’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2035. The corporation’s multi-facet plan includes transitioning to a low-emissions fleet, increasing energy efficiency, and purchasing carbon offsets.
In addition, Honda has an agreement for 200 MW, McDonald’s for 160 MW, and Google for 100 MW. AT&T, Google, and Honda have already been leaders in renewable energy use. According to the Renewable Energy Buyer’s Alliance Top U.S. Energy Buyers of 2019, Google ranks second, AT&T third, McDonald’s ninth, and Honda tenth.
Tech giants have helped lead the way with sourcing renewable energy, due in part to consumer and investor concern over dirty energy powering data centers.
Freelance renewable energy writer