While 60-cell panels are still dominant, it appears more powerful 72-cell designs are being used, according to Solar Media Ltd. This can mostly be attributed to more 72-cell panels being used in utility-scale solar—the largest solar market—as these projects are looking for the highest output.
Some of the most cost-efficient ways to reach even higher outputs with larger solar panels are through PERC designs or increasing the number of busbars. Both can contribute to 72-cell panels producing outputs near 350 W.
More busbars means there are more paths for electrons to pass down, leading to increases in both power and efficiency. The International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaic (ITRPV) finds that four- and five-busbar models will quickly assert their dominance, while advanced busbar-less technologies will eventually find their own footing.
Moving past “buzzword” status, IHS expects PERC to become a mainstream technology by 2020. Most major manufacturers have come out with a PERC line. The global production capacity of PERC cells is expected to reach 25 GW this year, doubling 2016’s output, according to Energy Trend.
Switching over to half-cut cells in solar panels can also boost power output by reducing the potential for resistance losses. REC made each of its module lines half-cut in 2016, and Mitsubishi and Canadian Solar are just two names that have also picked up on the trend.
In general, high-efficiency modules are in demand across all markets.
“High-efficiency panels are in more demand than ever in the residential solar market due to outright ownership getting more popular and homeowners seeking to maximize their production,” said Mukesh Sethi, manager of the solar products group for Panasonic Eco Solutions Company of North America (PESNA).
With the whole industry relatively even on price, the best way to differentiate today’s solar panels is by increasing power through slight manufacturing changes.