The benefits and importance of solar panels are known all over the world and cannot be emphasized enough. In fact, Solar Energy counts for over 3.5% of total electricity generated in the United Kingdom, and the world isn’t too far behind.
If you are looking to switch to a cleaner source of energy, you must definitely jump on the solar-power bandwagon.
But do you feel that traditional solar panels are bulky, take up a lot of space and aren’t as fancy as they should be? It’s absolutely normal to feel so, and there are ways you can change this.
If you’re thinking about getting solar panels installed, it is best to do extensive research and find out about the best ones in the market. There are a lot of different types of solar panels being manufactured these days, and you must pick the style that suits your need the most.
Solar panels can be opaque or transparent. Since their primary purpose is to absorb as much light as possible, we must pick the one that does the job the best.
In this article, we will systemically break down the technology behind transparent solar panels and highlight everything you need to know about them.
Working of Solar Panels
Before dwelling on the nuances of transparent solar panels, it is imperative to understand the principles behind their work.
A solar system has numerous elements that are of prime importance. Each panel of solar cells is connected in a series / parallel combination, which is then connected to an inverter that converts electricity from DC to AC. Then, a meter is connected to a monitor that checks and tracks the amount of energy generated.
The energy generated is then used to supply power to your property, thus utilising a cost-efficient, renewable source of electricity.
Transparent Solar Panels
As the name suggests, transparent solar panels are see-through solar panels made of glass. They are made from Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPVs). Their sleek, subtle and stylish design makes them an ideal alternative to the traditional black or blue panels.
Transparent solar panels are built into the building, unlike the standardised ones that are placed on top of it. If you have a knack for aesthetics, you must opt for transparent solar panels over traditional ones.
Here, it is imperative to understand that transparency is a spectrum measured or presented in percentage. So, transparency is variable and dependent on the type of panels you choose.
However, solar panels with 100% transparency haven’t been created yet. So, when the term transparent is used, we’re talking about 30-40% transparency which is still a lot compared to completely opaque ones.
Partially Transparent Solar Panels
Transparent solar panels are manufactured in a completely different manner from that traditional solar panels. Manufacturers use thin-film photovoltaics (TPVs) to make them, which is essentially produced by pasting ultra-thin layers of a semiconductor on a glass sheet.
They preserve this by adding another thin glass sheet on top to make a cadmium telluride sandwich. These ultra-thin layers are so minute that each layer only adds a little to the opacity, ensuring that the end product is still reasonably transparent.
Partially transparent solar panels have an efficiency of about 7-10%. This efficiency is technically a measure of the sunlight trapped by the solar panel, which is then converted into usable energy.
More efficient versions that are 20-25% efficient are premium and more expensive than classic ones.
Fully Transparent Solar Panels
By rethinking the mechanism of photovoltaics, scientists have been able to come up with a technology that makes solar panels resemble actual, regular glass.
The main problem was that fully transparent solar panels wouldn’t capture anything since all light would pass through them. However, scientists have created a transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC) after countless efforts, which overcomes this hurdle. It is made from organic salts that capture the light of non-visible wavelengths.
These are not the most efficient solar panels with efficiency not over 1% but have achieved over 85% transparency.
More strenuous efforts are required to harness the technology of having efficient yet fully transparent solar panels.
While it might look like transparent solar panels are of no use because of their relatively lesser efficiency, that’s not true.
Think about it. You can replace all the windows of your home with transparent solar panels, and thus, the individual efficiency of each will be no problem. With this, you can tackle two birds with one stone!
The more the number of solar panels you put, the greater are their potential uses.
Currently, transparent solar panels in the UK are priced somewhere between 200-400 pounds per square meter. It is expected that in the coming years, the installation of transparent solar panels will get 50% cheaper than standard panels.
Pros and Cons
In case you’re unsure about getting transparent solar panels installed, the following list of pros and cons will help you make a better-informed decision.
- They are cheaper to produce as compared to traditional solar panels.
- They allow more natural light to pass through, thus can be used in place of glasses.
- They make a style statement as they are very sleek and subtle.
- They possess great potential for diverse uses.
- They enable you to cut down on carbon footprint emissions efficiently and quickly.
- Transparent solar cells usually degrade over time.
- They are relatively less efficient as compared to traditional panels.
- Till now, none of the “transparent” solar panels has been fully transparent.
Before installing transparent solar panels, there are some prerequisites that you need to fulfil. These are:
- Inspect if your property is solar panel-friendly. You must be willing to get all your windows changed if you’re up for installing transparent panels.
- Check if any permissions or contracts are needed to get them installed.
- Always factor in the cost. Even though solar panels are cost-efficient in the long run, they may cost you a lot during the installation process.
- Find the right company in your locality or region to get the panels fitted. Ensure that they are reliable and trustworthy.
Other Types of Solar Panels
Apart from the standard and transparent solar panels, several other types of panels are available in the market. Some of them are multi-purpose, while others are aesthetic in their appeal.
Some of these are listed below.
Bifacial Solar Panels
Bifacial solar panels are a dual function solar panel. Due to the presence of a reflector, it can generate electricity from both its back and front.
Concentrated PV Cell
This is highly efficient as it uses curved lenses to focus sunlight at a certain angle.
These are made from a monocrystalline or thin film. They are more pretty-looking and tick the box of aesthetics. The only drawback is that they are relatively less efficient than the traditional cells.
Summing It Up
Solar panels can prove to be the best investment in the long run as they practically produce free electricity with negligible maintenance. Installing solar panels can completely change the way you generate and consume electricity.
Additionally, if you feel that traditional solar panels are incredibly dull and mundane, more stylish options are available for you these days. You can opt for transparent solar panels and make a style statement with your home. This article covers everything you need to know about transparent solar panels and other aesthetic options.
The world has already taken the first step towards minimising the effects of climate change by getting solar panels installed. What are you waiting for?