TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker and becoming a Supporting Member. For more info: Support TMC

Maximum Solar Capability to Convert Electeicity

Discussion in 'Technical' started by timpierc, Nov 7, 2016.

  1. timpierc

    timpierc Member

    Jul 1, 2013
    Broomfield, Colorado
    I'm probably just googling the wrong terms. What I'm trying to figure out is the maximum theoretical capability of a silicon (or other material) solar panel to convert sunlight into electricity.

    What I'm asking is analogous to the thermodynamic efficiencies of various heat technologies. The maximum theoretical efficiency of a coal power plant is around 45%. Combined gas/coal is around 65%, diesel and gas engines can never be above 40% (this is all from my memory back in my collage thermo classes, please don't hold me to these numbers ).

    My point is the laws of thermodynamics place a maximum limit of usable power that a specific heat technology can attain. The rest goes to waste as heat.

    For solar the earth receives around 1000 watts per square meter. Obviously a solar panel can't convert all of those watts into electricity. What is literally the line where physics says to solar technology "you shall not pass!"

    Links to references would be great!

    Many thanks,

  2. AndreN

    AndreN Member

    Feb 22, 2012
    Redmond, WA
    • Informative x 2
  3. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

    Feb 17, 2013
    United States
    Yep... there's a lot of different 'tricks' you can use but it's likely that the max is <40%.

    It's important to keep in mind that efficiency is only part of the equation. Unlike other energy sources the 'fuel' is free and there's no cost to dispose of the waste heat. If I asked you if you wanted 10% of the $$$ behind door A OR 90% of the $$$ behind door B you don't really have enough information to make an informed choice. There could be $1M behind door A and $10 behind door B....

    We get 1kW per sq meter of solar energy.... even if we only harvest at 20% efficiency that's still A LOT of power... A LOT of power.... far more than we can EVER use.
  4. wycolo

    wycolo Active Member

    May 16, 2012
    WA & WY
    Grape Solar full size panels are now listed as 330 watts each which is about 0.4 horsepower. This is a bit more than the 265 watt panels that were popular a year or so ago, so a bit of progress has been made. But the industry probably has a 'standard' sunshine rating of some sort to test measure panel output. Like that found on Caesar's Palace parking lot at noon on a clear Sept 21st in Las Vegas, NV.

Share This Page

  • About Us

    Formed in 2006, Tesla Motors Club (TMC) was the first independent online Tesla community. Today it remains the largest and most dynamic community of Tesla enthusiasts. Learn more.
  • Do you value your experience at TMC? Consider becoming a Supporting Member of Tesla Motors Club. As a thank you for your contribution, you'll get nearly no ads in the Community and Groups sections. Additional perks are available depending on the level of contribution. Please visit the Account Upgrades page for more details.