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Scientists improve measurements of solar panel power output
by Brooks Hays
Hamburg, Germany (UPI) Sep 18, 2015

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

For most buyers and sellers, uncertainty isn't good. It leads to lost value and unrealized profits. The solar panel industry knows this problem well, as the instruments used to gauge the power potential of photovoltaic cells are frustratingly inaccurate.

But now, a team of European researchers has shown new measurement methods are able to halve the margin of error for calculating a PV cell's output.

Currently, photovoltaic solar panels are traded at prices based on their maximum power potential. But a level of uncertainty is built into the price and accounted for by both manufacturers and investors. This leads to inefficiency in the multibillion-dollar market.

According to the scientists who analyzed the new measurement methods, reducing the margin of uncertainty will offer an economic boost to the entire solar energy industry.

In addition to enabling buyers and sellers of solar panels to make more informed decisions and exact more precise pricing models, improved measurements will also encourage utilities to consider solar power sources in their power-delivery plans. Additionally, the new methodology will improve research and development efforts by improving engineers' ability to "clearly identify the impact of new materials and processes."

In Europe, solar cell power output is measured against five reference cells maintained by the Joint Research Commission. Recent improvements in instrumentation allowed JRC scientists to recalibrate their reference cells and thus minimize their margin of error in measuring the power potential of new cells.

The research -- which was recently detailed in the journal Metrologia -- was presented to attendees at this week's European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition, held in Hamburg, Germany.

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