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To explain which solar modules (same as solar panels) fall under the category of first generation, we must first learn which types of panels currently exist and which of them is produced by Sharp. These types of panels are known under the name of Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. Both are known for higher cost and thus higher efficiency. Their solar cells are manufactured out of pure silicon which is very efficient in terms of utilizing the sun’s energy. The Mono panels (short for Monocrystalline panels) can produce more energy in shadows and afternoon suns, while Polys (short for Polycrystalline panels) aren’t as good at that.

The main component of Sharp’s solar panels is Silicon, which is widely used in electronical chips, like computers. First generation Sharp solar panels are using only the best Silicon chips that can be produced. And these First generation panels are the main reason why Sharp is still the leading manufacturer. In fact, market share of First generation panels out of all sold panels in year 2007 was still 89.6%. In Sharps later generations of panels, which use cheaper versions of Silicon, it allows them to cut the costs and offer more competitive panels.

Nowadays we see a declining trend in sales of more powerful and expensive panels. The reason for this is our economical situation and tendency towards greener solutions for every home.

Now let’s take a detailed look at First generation solar modules that are produced by Sharp. Among the two type of first generation panels mentioned above, let’s discuss  Monocrystalline panels.

Sharp’s Monocrystaline panels:

  • NU-E245 (J5) – 245 Watt output / 14.9% Efficiency
  • NU-E240 (J5) – 240 Watt output / 14.6% Efficiency
  • NU-E235 (E1) – 235 Watt output / 14.3% Efficiency

Monocrystalline panels offer better performance when compared to Polycrystalline panels. They were designed to output higher power for lower light conditions. Locations that have shorter days usually can’t accumulate enough energy throughout the day. So Sharp has added an NU-E (see above) series of solar panels to allow you to create more efficient solar arrays (collection of linked panels). Especially when you look at product items NU-E240 and NU-E245 that use special anti-reflex coating to increase a light absorption and therefore increase overall efficiency of the panel. That coating is decreasing the deduction of solar beams and thus absorbing more solar power. Sharp has also created NU line with NU-180 and NU-185 solar panels to fill the gap between higher performance Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline. So we have all the characteristics of Mono with lower prices (see below).

  • NU-180 (E1) – 180 Watt output / 13.7% Efficiency
  • NU-185 (E1) – 185 Watt output / 14.1% Efficiency
  • NU-180 (E1H) – 180 Watt output / 13.7% Efficiency
  • NU-185 (E1H) – 185 Watt output / 14.1% Efficiency

Modules with numbers E1 and E1H that are listed above are smaller in size and weigh less than NU-E ones (NU-E stands for Efficiency, or more efficient panels), which were explained earlier. Efficiency is less and as we can see the output power is lower also. Power output for this series is 180 Watt or 185 Watt. So this solar panel will be sufficient for smaller homes and offices. To continue with our First generation panels we have to look at Polycrystalline modules from Sharp.

Sharp’s Polycrystalline modules

  • ND-210 (E1F) – 210 Watt output / 12.8% Efficiency
  • ND-220 (E1F) – 220 Watt output / 13.4% Efficiency
  • ND-220 (E1J) – 220 Watt output / 13.4% Efficiency
  • ND-225 (E1J) – 225 Watt output / 13.7% Efficiency

Here are the most popular Polycrystalline modules (see above). They do offer quite a lot of power output, but the efficiency is low when compared to Mono type of panels. Many consumers purchase cheaper panels and place many solar panels together to create a large array of solar panels. This is applicable when you have a larger roof or any other place to install a solar panel array. We have to look at two additional Polycrystalline type panels.

  • ND-E220 (A2) – 220 Watt output / 13.4% Efficiency
  • ND-E230 (A2) – 230 Watt output / 14.0% Efficiency

More demanding users that prefer cheaper Poly panels and want more powerful panels will go after A2 (part number of the panel) panels.

First generation don’t have a short term return on investment and thus can be considered expensive: that is they may take years before they pay off their purchasing cost. Reason for that is production process, which is more expensive when compared to second generation (Thin-film panels, where layer is placed on top of another layer, to create one panel), but still more popular because of higher efficiency. If you are concerned whether to buy Polys or Mono panels, I would suggest getting the Mono as the price is almost the same when you look at Polys Sharp panels.

In summary, Sharp has developed quality First generation panels and proved that it is still number one in solar panel industry. They are producing two types of panels, by the name of Poly and Mono crystalline. Both types uses the finest quality Silicon that improves solar panels efficiency. Mono panels have better characteristics and are able to generate power even at night. If you want top quality solar panel from Sharp and can spare some extra change I would choose Polys.

Sharp Corporation is a leading Japanese Consumer Electronics company. They are primarily known for their electronics like TV sets. But not many know they are a leading provider and one of the pioneering global sources of solar panels. The company was founded in 1912 and have been working in the solar industry since 1959. In 1963 they decided to offer their solar panels to the mass market.

At present Sharp continues to be one of the top 10 manufacturers globally to this day. Every fourth solar panel installed worldwide is being produced by Sharp —that’s a quarter of the entire global market.

Sharp solar panels use light energy from the sun to generate electricity through the Photovoltaic (PV) effect *. Nowadays most solar modules are produced with silicon PV cells, so these are typically used in Policrystalline or Monoycrystalline modules (solar module has the exact same meaning as solar panel).

Sharp is producing photovoltaic panels using “first generation” panels (Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline) as well as “second generation,” Thin-Film panels. Poly and Mono crystalline solar panels are mostly used for residential homes and offices. While Thin-Film panels are being offered to large-scale companies and institutions.

Their panels are used in many different ways, ranging from phones, satellites, lighthouses, residential and industrial solutions. Their top quality solar panels are being produced in many locations including Wales and Memphis, Tennessee in the United States.

Their latest development of Thin film solar cell began mass production in 2005. The major difference to previous generations are the ability to deposit one or more thin layers together. The thinnest solar panel layer is about few nanometers thick, while the thickest panel can get up to one millimeter.

Sharp’s first Thin-film solar cell was installed on a small calculator. Now Thin-film modules are used on much larger and more sophisticated building integrations and even vehicle charging systems.

Sharp’s solar panel efficiency ranges from 13.7% to 14.9%. Efficiency refers to how much electricity a solar panel produces from a certain amount of sunlight. So imagine our sun is a light bulb producing 100 watts of power (light) and out of that 100 watts we are able to extract 14 watts. So it means our panel will give us 14% of that 100 watts Sun’s sunlight or light bulb watts from the 100 watts. That is how panel efficiency is measured from the output of the sun through a solar panel. In other words the higher the efficiency, then the more electricity it will be produce for the same surface area. So we will need less solar panels to meet our requirements for powering our home the higher the efficiency.

To give you a better perspective, currently the highest rated solar panels have cell conversion efficiency of more than 32.5%. While in reality the commercial products have much lower efficiency.

“High-efficiency” solar cells are made to decrease the cost of solar energy. These cells allow solar panels to produce more electricity over the same period of time.

Currently the biggest barrier in this technology is how to use the other sun’s waves like ultraviolet and infrared energy. If our solar panels could be able to get as much as %10 of each spectrum, we could already fuel the entire world with solar solutions. Other known barriers is the reflection of panels. When the Sun’s beams deducts from solar panels reflective screens, the efficiency lowers even further. Sharp has created anti-reflective coatings with uniform blue color to increase the absorption of light in all weather conditions.

Lastly, though newer, technologically improved panels from Sharp are coming to the market, we can’t say that they will perform any better when compared to the oldest generation, which is first generation (Poly and Mono crystalline panels). Yes they become thinner and easier to install, but the main ingredient is still Silicon. And it will take many years to come up to the point, where we will no longer rely on Silicon technology.

In conclusion, Sharp is among the 10 most important solar panels manufacturers. In fact in year 2010 they were number one in number of sold solar panels. Main reason for their success is the latest development of Thin film solar panels. The future will tell if they can overcome challenges and keep the current leadership among solar panels competitors.


* Photovoltaic effect is the creation of a measurable unity of energy called a voltage in a material upon exposure to the sun.

How many of us still believe that making your own solar panel is an impossible task? Or you heard that it is possible but you think that it is too hard to do it. As difficult as it seems or looks, the process of creating your first panel is not a rocket science. In fact it is so easy, that school teachers could start teaching their students to make their own solar panels.

To build your solar panel or solar array (which is a collection of many panels), all you will need to do is connect solar cells together and you can already change the sun’s energy into usable electricity.

Each cell creates about 0.5 volt (depends on the manufacturer), so you need more than 24 cells to fill up the 12 volt battery. Higher the voltage, the less cells we need to power our battery. Most solar panels that are designed for 12 volt batteries are able to output around 17 volts of energy.

Since the solar panels voltage is constantly changing we need a bare minimum voltage to fuel our batteries, otherwise, the electric power would fluctuate and even disappear at nights. This is the precise reason solar panels require batteries and/or storage devices. to store the excesses from this fluctuation, while electrical inputs (plugs) in our homes do not need this kind of storage or batteries. In the home the voltage is maintain at a consistent flow by internal adapters called capacitors.

You need to place those cells into housing that will keep cells together and at the same time protect solar panel from bad weather conditions. You can make this process really simple if you don’t plan to put a solar panel outdoors. So for example use wood instead of aluminium or not use cover for your solar cells. Otherwise if you use more quality components for housing and backing (which holds the cells together) you will be able to keep your solar panel for about 25 or more years. That is the approximate lifespan for solar cells.

Let’s look at what materials you will need to start creating your panel:

  • Solar cells
  • Playwood or Aluminium
  • Glue or Screws
  • UV protector paint
  • Plexiglass
  • Wires
  • Solder

That is about all the materials you will need. If you are a contractor or carpenter you will most likely have all the materials ready or at least you will know where to get them. Solar cells can be bought online, while all other materials can be bought locally. Whether expert or not you will need tools to be able to perform the work. In our case we’ll use a soldering iron, screwdriver, gloves, saw, paint brush, caulk gun, multi-meter, flux pen and eye protection glasses.

If you are looking for exact blueprint or step-by-step guide to start creating your panel, you can visit this link.

Now you may have questions, whether to try making solar panel on your own or simply buy a complete commercial product on the market. If you have all the tools, materials and also knowledge you won’t have any problems. In many cases I’ve seen home made panels, that were more durable, than commercial, simply because they’ve used more durable components. In case you are not comfortable with soldering, wiring, cutting etc. I would advise you to get high quality panels from manufacturers like Sharp or BP Solar.

Now that you see how simple it is, can you really make your own Solar Panel? From what I’ve just shared, you can clearly see it’s only a matter of ordering your solar cells online, connecting them to a battery. Then finally testing the output, protecting them and voila you have made your own solar panel.

<< Read first part of the article here

Inverters

It is pretty logical to include an inverter in our setup to transform the Solar Panels DC (electrical power that is produced by fuel cells, batteries) into an AC (the source used in homes and offices) energy that can be delivered to our off-grid electrical network.

You can select a stand-alone inverter, which incorporate integral battery charges to replenish the battery from an AC source, when it is available. Grid tie inverters can automatically shut down upon loss of utility supply and it won’t provide backup power during utility loss. Special inverters called battery backup inverters were designed to draw energy from a battery and export that excess energy to the utility grid.
You may select small inverters or even micro inverters that will maximize energy harvest, increase system reliability and dramatically simplify design, installation and management.
Ok we’ve got all we need for the system, now there is just one more item – solar panel racks.

Solar Panel Racks

After the basic setup in complete we need to place the system on our roof or anywhere your solar technician decides to mount it on.
Different types of racks can be selected to fit your application. You can place it on the ground, roof, top of pole and at the side of pole.
Each type of solar panel rack will come with different sizing based on the power of your solar panel.  As a final point let’s talk about storage. The way we maintain a continuous flow of energy is to store what we don’t use immediately. That is done with batteries.

Batteries

Batteries can be obtained locally, especially 12V batteries which can be found in every vehicle store. Some batteries are cheaper and that suggests that the quality can’t be compared with of the line batteries. So instead choose a battery that have a 10 year or more warranty, so you won’t have to replace the battery often.
Batteries can also be combined so you reach your desired power output. For example you can combine two 12V batteries to get the power ratings of 24V.

We have covered all the basic components that you need to make your solar system work. I didn’t covered how you will wire and connect all the components together, because solar panel experts (I personally feel it’s best to use an expert) will do this without any effort. Note that the setup you’ve made will power your household for many many years to come. For example, Sharp currently offers a 25 years limited warranty. In that time your solar panel will definitely pay off. In fact I am sure that many solar panel setups will return your investment in less than 10 years. You won’t have to pay for electricity bills as you will make this one time investment and it will allow you to enjoy free energy without limits. With that in mind I would like to conclude that whichever solar panel you choose, it is one of the best decisions you’ will make in your entire life.

First the most common question that you will come by, when choosing your solar system is how solar panels work. You may think that after you bought Solar Panels, you won’t need any additional components or maybe expect that you will receive everything in one package.  You may think, more often than not, manufacturers will take care of your setup and choose the components that they think are the best ones for you.

Unfortunately big global companies like Sharp and BP Solar will only sell their Solar Panels, while you will have to select components to make your first photovoltaic system. Basically you will need inverters, breakers, charge controllers, racking and wiring.

Solar Panels

Before you start selecting a solar panel it is important to select the appropriate sizing of something called solar array. Before I go further a solar array is a solar panel container for many solar panels that are linked together to produce more solar energy.
Solar Modules (means the same as Solar Panels)  come in many sizes.  Smaller solar modules are used for transmitters,  electric gate openers, boats and even battery charging. They are made out of single crystal module (solar module is just another word for solar panel and has the same meaning) with junction boxes, aluminium frames and glass. Beside smaller panels, there are tiny and lightweight panels at the same time that are made out of plastic laminate instead of glass and aluminium.

Though these small solar modules exist, many of us will, most often, consider getting larger solar panel for our homes. Whether a home or condo, you’ll need at least a 12V battery systems that offer more than 50 Watts. Some larger houses will need more powerful 24V systems with 80W modules.

One factor that you might consider is whether you can gather more than 50 Watts per module from the sun. The person who will install your solar powering system will choose a perfect spot to accumulate most from the energy source. They will consider the height, angle and positioning of your solar panel that will power your household.  Technology is greatly improving and it is the same in the solar panel’s market.

Although the first photovoltaic cells (solar cells) were made in 1953, and were pretty big, like with other technology the cells have also became smaller with better efficiency to better suit the needs of the market. Now you have cells that are sizes of 4, 5 or 6 inches. So your module will be created out of 60 cells and will be able to provide energy for 20V solar system.  Beside panels here is another critical component to consider, the Charge Controller.

Charge Controllers

The Charge Controller regulates the input from the Photovoltaic (Photovoltaic effect is the creation of a voltage in a material upon exposure to the sun) and the batteries, which regulates the battery output and handles the charging of the battery. Sounds simple enough, but this is very important equipment that you will need when batteries became overcharged. Batteries will significantly reduce its battery life after very long charging or even become damaged in the worst case scenario.

In order to stabilize and regulate battery output so the energy doesn’t get lost, Charge Controllers either cuts the circuit and stops charging or slowly lowers the degree of applied power to the batteries. This kind of slow charging will further increase the battery life and allow charging the battery indefinitely.  Charge Controllers come in different varieties; 4 to 30 amps. For example 4.5 amp unit is able to regulate up to 75W of solar input at 14.4V.
Although there are larger Charge Controllers with capacities of 60 amps, we won’t consider these units as they are not for personal use. Oh, I almost forgot about very important item, called inverter.

 

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