Has Australia set a new record for solar power efficiency?

Improving the efficiency of solar panels could become a reality across the world, as researchers based at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) reveal results of recent tests. The team believes it has successfully converted more than 40 per cent of sunlight hitting solar cells into electricity, which would make it the highest level on record.

Results have been verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US, confirming that this world record has been reached.

"We hope to see this home grown innovation take the next steps from prototyping to pilot scale demonstrations," said CEO of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Ivor Frischknecht. "Ultimately, more efficient commercial solar plants will make renewable energy cheaper, increasing its competitiveness."

Demand for solar technology is already growing across many parts of the country. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show as many as 1 in 5 households now uses a solar power system of some description.

Solar panels are used in 14 per cent of households, while solar hot water heating is found in about 5 per cent of premises. South Australia emerged as the state where uptake of solar is at its highest, as residents make the most of reduced electricity prices.

Experts based at the UNSW have had success with improving solar panel efficiency in the past. They were the first group to exceed to 20 per cent efficiency milestone back in 1989.

One of the highlights of this latest technology is that it uses a custom optical bandpass filter, which captures sunlight that would otherwise be wasted by commercial solar cells. Sunlight is then converted into electricity at a much higher efficiency than would otherwise be possible.

The researchers believe this has the potential to make solar panels cheaper for consumers, which may enhance uptake even further.

Posted by Richard West