How efficient is solar power?

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How much energy is lost as heat, and how does this compare to other forms of power generation?

In: Engineering
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Solar panel efficiency is generally around 15-20%, while for comparison Nuclear power and Coal power is around 30%, and hydro power is around 90%.

Individual solar cells can be much higher in efficiency, but cost factors and loses in the panel bring that down.

But efficiency is only part of the equation.

Solar panels require a great deal of space to generate a significant amount of power, while traditional power stations are much much smaller in terms of land area.

Solar Panels have a minimal environmental impact though.

Nuclear power meanwhile is the most energy dense, you get the most power out of a small amount of fuel. By orders of magnitude compared to other power generation types.

It’s very efficient. The photoelectric effect can be almost 100% efficient, if you want super expensive NASA-grade quantum dot ones. The mo#t cost efficient ones are about 25%, so you can afford to put more of them up.

Efficiency and “density” don’t really matter when your fuel is free, except as they affect cost/KWh.

If tomorrow someone invented a solar panel that was 1/2 as efficient as today’s, but 1/4 the cost, that would be a great advance.

We have all the space we need to site solar and wind generators, and putting them somewhere often does not destroy the existing use of the space. For example, put solar panels on frameworks above parking lots and highways.