What Climate Change Means for Your Solar Panels

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Green energy isn't just the way of the future; it's also supposed to be a lot cheaper. When solar energy works correctly, for instance, it can whittle your electric bill down to almost nothing. A lot of that depends on things staying much like they are today, however — and climate change is making that more than a little harder.

New research from MIT has found a troubling flaw in the technology we use to create solar panels. The surfaces that collect energy from the sun actually become less efficient as temperatures go up. Add this to new uncertainties in weather patterns (more or less cloud cover, for example) and we could find ourselves back on our heels with one of our most popular green energy techs.

It's not all bad news: There's room for experimenting with other materials to improve panel efficiency. Moreover, the drops in efficiency are relatively small. To start off, a solar panel performs at the top of its game when it's 22 percent efficient, and that can vary widely among brands. CityLab points out that at scale, a loss of 1 percent efficiency could be concerning on a system-wide level, but individual consumers probably shouldn't worry just yet.

After all, if you're lucky enough to move into a move that's preinstalled with energy-saving tech, it's already saving you money. And if you're really committed to alleviating energy costs and climate change where you can, setting up solar panels alone is really just the start.