How much power do Solar Panels produce?
The amount of electricity a solar panel produces depends on three important factors: the size of the panel, the efficiency of the solar cells inside, and the amount of sunlight the panel gets.
We’ll break down what you can expect from a typical solar panel, and how that power output compares to the power you need for the gadgets and appliances you use inside your home.
Average Solar Panel Size
When we say “solar panel,” what we’re talking about is a typical 60-cell silicon photovoltaic panel for residential use. These days, most home solar panels are about 65 inches high by 39 inches wide, or 5 and a half feet tall and a little more than 3 feet wide:
If you look closely at the solar panel in the image above, you’ll notice 60 little squares aligned in 6 columns of 10 cells each. These squares are individual solar “cells,” which are linked together by wires. The cells are where electricity is made, and the wires carry the electricity to a junction box where the panel is hooked into a larger array.
Manufacturers also make solar panels with 72 cells, which are aligned in 6 columns of 12 cells each. 72-cell solar panels are also 39 inches wide, but average about 78 inches long. These larger panels are mostly used for commercial and industrial solar installations, but are increasingly popular on homes.
Why does solar panel size matter?
The more solar cells working in tandem, the more power they’ll create. That’s why the size of the panel matters if you’re trying to calculate how much electricity a panel makes.
Solar panels have been about this size for decades, but modern panels make more electricity than in the past. That’s because panel manufacturers have found ways to improve cell efficiency over time.
Since the first solar panels were created in 1954, the cells have become more efficient and changed shape from round to square, which means the energy-generating portion of the panel takes up a larger portion of the total surface area. These changes have caused a big increase in solar panel power output.
How efficient are solar panels?
Solar efficiency relates to the amount of available energy from the sun that gets converted into electricity.
Back in the 1950s, the first solar cells were capable of taking 6% of the energy from the sun and converting it into electricity.
If they were configured to be the same array of 60 cells you see in the image above, that would have created a current of about 20 watts electricity, about a third of what would be needed to light up a 60 watt incandescent bulb.