When scientists and solar panel manufacturers get excited about efficiencies of 22, 23, 24%, they mus ownder why the rest of us look unimpressed. After all, if we got a grading of 25% at our workplaces, we wouldn’t be around for long.
The small number in the efficiency rating is misleading, though. Almost all commercial solar panels right now – and certainly residential panels – use silicon as the photovoltaic material. Silicon has lots of properties that make it the best current choice for cells and panels right now, but it also has limit to how much of the light it can convert into electricity. That limit is somewhere around 30%. So, while it might not be scientificallt accurate, it would not be misleading to say that current cells operate at something more like 80% capacity (24 is 80% of 30).
At any rate, the people who work on making panels better and better have now reached a new record for silicon cells of 26.6%, the first time any panel has ever gone above 26% (or 86% efficiency, if you’d like to put it that way).