UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Thank you for your time. I live in Mexicali, Mexico. The temperature here goes from 30F to 70F in Winter, and from 80F to 124F in Summer. I want to install solar cells in my backyard, how does temperature affect the production of electricity?
Answer 1:

A similar question was answered in ScienceLine a few years ago. You can find it here.

click to read

The brief science explanation is that when you increase the temperature of a solar cell, its current increases but its voltage decreases. When a semiconductor is heated, electrons become more mobile and current can therefore increase. Voltage depends on a separation of negative charges (electrons) and positive charges (holes) across an energy band gap in a semiconductor. When temperature increases, electrons are more likely to jump across the band gap and recombine with holes, therefore reducing the charge separation and reducing the voltage. Power, which is related to efficiency, is equal to the voltage times the current. It works out that voltage decreases faster than current increases, so increasing temperature decreases power and therefore efficiency as well.

I did a quick search and found that most solar cell manufacturers have a graph of power vs. temperature in their product specs. Here are three examples.

ET Solar:
ET Solar

For all of these products, there’s about a 20% power decrease between 25C and 75C (77F-167F). Colder temperatures have higher efficiency but sometimes less power, because colder often means less direct sunlight! I wish you luck with your installation.

Thanks for embracing alternative energy!

Answer 2:

When solar cells are hotter they are less effective at producing electricity. When a photon of light is absorbed by a solar panel it energizes an electron which causes it to jump up to a higher energy level. The starting energy level and higher energy level are separated by a "bandgap" of energies where the electron isn't allowed to exist. Once the electron is collected by a wire it can be used as electrical energy. But the higher the temperature the more likely it is that the electron will fall back down to the lower energy level before it is collected, in which case that energy is not turned into electricity.

But during the summer it is brighter and the days are longer so you still probably get more energy in the summer than in the winter because the solar cells will be less effective per unit of sunlight but there will be a lot more sunlight.

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2015 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use