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Solar Panels Can Produce More Energy Through New Technique

First Posted: Oct 22, 2015 04:23 PM EDT

Researchers have found a way to get more sun to shine on solar panels and increase the output by more than 30 percent, according to a news release.

Solar panels are one of the most essential renewable energy outlets. However, they are not getting as much light as they could be, according to Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and electrical and computing engineering at Michigan Technological University, and a team from Queen's University in Canada, so these researchers found a way to shed more light on solar panels.

"We expend a lot of blood, sweat and tears to make solar panels as efficient as possible. We work so hard to get a fraction of a percent increase on the module level; double digit returns on the systems level was relatively easy," Pearce said.

The large increase in efficiency at the system level could significantly change how solar panels are installed, which is economically booming and it could enable existing solar farms to improve their systems.

"We're looking at this from a systems perspective," Pearce said. He claimed that research is often focused on the system rather than individual panels mostly because the current set up for ground-mounted solar panel arrays is "wasting space."

In large scale solar farms, iconic flat-faced solar panels are spaced apart to prevent shading. When the sun shines on a photovoltaic system, sending electricity into the grid, a fair amount of that potential energy is lost as the light hits the ground between rows of panels, according to Pearce.

He said the solution is simple: fill the space with a reflector to bounce sunlight back onto the panels and use the light-reflecting mathematical models of video games and action movies to avoid temperature swings. 

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