Heck, solar even works in climates that can't support plants. Space, the arctic regions, extreme desserts, even floating in the middle of 1200 feet of ocean water to name a few.
We are often asked about solar panel efficiency. Some friendly folks even like to tell us that solar panels just aren't that efficient yet and don't work here. (Usually at trade shows, or green events when we are at the busiest singular point of said event...) Frankly, the entire concept is misunderstood.
An average plant is about 1% efficient at converting sunlight into food energy. Solar panel average in the high teens to over 20% in efficiency. What does this all mean? Well, it all boils down to one important consideration. Physical space. Or more specifically, the amount of roof space the system will take up.
A system designed to generate a specific amount of power will effectively do just that. In fact, our data used to model our proposed yearly output is pretty darn accurate. It will meet or exceed our intended target excepting a few infrequent weather related abnormalities. An example may be smoke or smog from a drifting forest fire that temporarily disrupts normal operating conditions for an extended period of time. Very unlikely for most people, but possible nonetheless.
So efficiency really relates to how big a panel must be physically to reach specific power output rating. Thats all. As efficiencies increase, panels get smaller.
Yes, carbon fuels have more potential energy stored in a tiny physical space, but there are consequences for consuming that energy. That is a topic all in itself.