Sunpower grabs lead in bid for most efficient solar panel

sunpower solar panels efficiency

Sunpower – the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of solar panels regain the ‘Most Efficient Panel’ Trophy.

It’s on for young and old in the battle for the prestigious title of the most efficient solar panel. For a number of weeks we’ve brought you commentaries on the remarkable breakthroughs achieved by Trina (here and here). Now Sunpower — the French-owned, US-based solar panel manufacturer — has stepped up to the plate with an announcement they have achieved a module efficiency rating of 22.8 percent for its X-Series solar panel. Another world record.

The record was backed by none less than the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and lauded by Howard Wenger, the president of SunPower, business units, who described the solar panels as “the most efficient that homeowners can buy”.

“Solar technology differs widely from brand to brand, so it’s important for consumers to consider that not all panels deliver the same amount of energy, look elegant on a roof, or are guaranteed to last as long as promised,” he said in a media release. “SunPower panels are the most efficient that homeowners can buy, and we [have stood] behind them for a quarter century. We’re proud to hold the world-record title for efficiency.”

Of course, the title of “most efficient solar panel” carries more than just prestige and some great free press in the renewable energy mags. The solar company who has the most efficient solar panel can lay claim, in theory, to market leadership.

However the type of solar panel that best suits people will depend on their budget as much as efficiency. Remember a higher efficiency solar panel will not generate more energy per panel, it will just be smaller. The lower cost (yet lower efficiency) solar panels currently dominate the market.  And that’s not surprising when you look at exactly how much more expensive the Sunpower panels are. With a regular Tier 1 panel (JA solar, Jinko, Trina etc) wholesaling at around 80c per Watt, the $1.40 per Watt cost of Sunpower panels is a little eye-watering.

Unsurprisingly according to Sunpower the numbers stack up.

“The high efficiency solar panels generate more energy in the same amount of space as conventional solar panels, which can reduce the number of panels needed to meet consumers’ energy needs. Compared to conventional solar panels with efficiencies that range from 15 percent to 18 percent, a SunPower X-Series solar panel produces over 70 percent more energy in the same space over the first 25 years.”

But according to SQ head honcho Finn Peacock the numbers may not stack up for everyone:

“Sunpower are great panels. They are the only panel to come with a 25 year manufacturers warranty (as opposed to performance warranty). They have a 40 year predicted lifespan, estimated 25% more energy over 25 years per Watt installed due to high performance and minimal degradation. They claim to have only had 27 panels returned under warranty out of 1 million installed.

These really are a great choice if you want the best performing panel and peace of mind over 25 years.

They are also the most efficient panels in the world. But counterintuitively efficiency is not actually that important for most buyers. The exception to this is if you have a small roof. A Sunpower panel is estimated to give you a whopping 75% more energy per square metre of roof space -so It can make up for small roofs. But remember – you are paying a 70% premium for the panels over other good Tier 1 brands. They are still very expensive.”

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  1. […] that didn’t take long! No sooner had we published our article on SunPower grabbing the unofficial prize of most efficient solar panel for commercial use, than Japanese […]

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