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This weird $9 trick increases solar panel efficiency 5-17%

Mega Sunergy released a new “multi shingled array module” 315W solar panel design that increases the efficiency of a standard solar panel by up to 17%. The company has changed how they lay out the 60 individual solar cells within the solar panel. Instead of perfectly spacing those 60 out – with small, defined areas between the cells – the company has allowed the solar cell’s borders to overlap each other while increaseing the cell count to 68.

The company expects their new solar cell layout to increase solar panel output 5-17% depending on the original solar cell type. In effect, by lowering the efficiency of the average solar cell they’ve increased the solar panel efficiency.

The solar cell technology used in Mega Sunergy’s new solar panel are the standard, cheaper polysilicon solar cells. The company’s 315W solar panels use polysilicon solar cells can be purchased in volume for approximately 22.5¢/W and have a rough wattage of 4.5W per cell. The additional cost per solar panel, just for the eight solar cells, is approximately $8.10 – an increase of 2.5¢/W for the overall panel. It’s for these lower efficiency solar cells that the highest efficiency gains can be gotten.

As can be seen below, in the only image I’ve found online as of yet, instead of seeing evenly spaced square solar cells you now see seemingly wider rectangular solar cells. If the panel is kept in standard dimensions (I cannot tell because bottom of panel is cut off) – that would mean 20 ‘individual’ solar shingles (versus the standard 60 solar cells).

The average efficiency for a residential solar panel installation in the USA is about 17.5%, which equates to about 285W. The range for standard efficiency solar panels is around 16-17% and 260-275W, while the highest efficiencies in the market go from 19-22% and 310-337W. These higher efficiency panels use historically higher cost monocrystalline solar cells.

Mega Energy said –

A PV module made of 60 poly-Si solar cells has power output of 270-275W and one made of 60 poly-Si PERCs (passivated emitter and rear cells) generates power of 295-300W. In the same panel area, a shingled PV module of 68 poly-Si cells has power output of 315W and better resistance to hot spots. If made of mono-Si or poly-Si PERCs, shingled modules can generate power higher than 315W.

LG Solar’s Neon2 315W solar panel, in my mind, is a leading cutting edge solar panel that blends newer monoPERC high efficiencies (19.5%) with reasonable pricing. The LG panel has other unique technologies such as ribbon bus bars. This panel by Mega Sunergy, using standard poly solar cells, has managed to equal the 19.5% efficiency of the LG Neon2. That impresses me and excites me.

Mega Sunergy noted that their technique of solar cell layout would work with higher efficiency PERC solar cells also – but with a lower increase in efficiency. This is because modern PERC cells take advantage of the light that bounces through the empty spaces and collects it on the backside of the solar cell. However, these PERC solar cells still gain at least 5% efficiency.

No pricing information was given.

Mega Energy has a factory in Taiwan with a capacity of 300MW/year. They’re looking to expand that to 400MW/year in 2018. They’ve got contracts in place for 50% of their manufacturing capacity in 2018 already.

Electrek’s Take

I think this is a big moment. Someone has decided that the efficiency of an individual solar cell can be sacrificed for the efficiency of the overall solar panel. Technically, this makes absolute sense – because you and I don’t care about solar cell efficiency since we install solar panels on our house. The reason this company could do this is because they believe the additional cost of 2.5-3¢/W for the additional ‘lower performing’ solar cell will still sell solar panels to customers. And I agree. If you can jump the solar panel by 17% efficiency – you’re going to save far more than those extra pennies on labor, land, racking, etc.

Today’s EGEB also noted that monoPERC solar cells – the highest efficiency products on the market – were coming down in price, and were almost the same price as the standard cheaper poly cells. That means this technique could probably push a panel well past 20% efficiency. I wonder what the record-setting 22.7% cells from LONGi and JinkoSolar would do with a layout like this.

We’re already using multijuction and heterojunction solar that greatly increases solar panel efficiency. The challenge with these technologies is cost and timeframe of getting them into wide usage. If we add multishingled to our toolkits – and then thousands of solar scientists start to optimize the technique within their particular companies – we might have a product that can get to market relatively fast in solid volumes. Tooling lines will have to be altered, but maybe not upgraded. Specifically – the machines that lay out the cells and interconnect the wiring on the panels. No new solar cell technology will be needed.

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