Solar Panel Types
if you were to compare one solar panel to the next, you would notice differences in shape size color or texture. One panel will be consistent and another would have more variation. Some cells are square while others have rounded edges.
in the past solar panels consisted of three main materials and were easily categorized: Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline, and Thin film technology
With further advances, manufacturers have been able to incorporate multiple technology types to take advantage of the best properties each has to offer.
At the pointy end of these advances is each brands flagship range
One example of this is the REC Alpha series. It uses all three technologies as well as other innovations to maximize production while minimizing degradation in all weather types.
below is an overview of the three main original solar cell technologies
Thin Film Technology
Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Cells
Solar cells made of monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si), also called single-crystalline silicon (single-crystal-Si), are quite easily recognizable by an external even coloring and uniform look, indicating high-purity silicon, as you can see on the adjacent picture.
The solar cells that make up these panels are cylindrical with rounded edges; monocrystalline panels, as the name suggests, are made up of single crystal silicon. Manufactured solar cells for monocrystalline silicon panels (ingots), are made through the Czochralski method, where crystal structures surround each ingot. Four sides are cut out of each ingot, to make silicon wafers, resulting in the diamond shapes between cells on finished modules.
Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cells
Polycrystalline silicon, which also is known as polysilicon (p-Si) and multi-crystalline silicon (mc-Si). Unlike monocrystalline-based solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels do not require the Czochralski process they are made of multiple fragments of silicon melted together, making them less pure. Raw silicon is melted and poured into a square mold, which is cooled and cut into perfectly square wafers.
Historicly this makes their efficiency less than the monocrystalline solar panels; but they are cheaper to produce . The appearance is slightly different. Instead of uniform appearance of single-crystal design systems, multicrystalline silicon panels have more of a speckled blue finish to them – resulting from the multiple crystals they are composed of.
Initially the cost of the polysilicone was high and the efficiency those panels was not as good as that of the mono panels, but the gap is narrowing quite a lot.
Thin-Film Solar Cells
Thin-film solar panels, also known as thin-film solar photovoltaic cells, are made by placing several layers of very thin photovoltaic material onto a substrate.
The different types of thin-film solar cells can be categorized by which photovoltaic material is deposited onto the substrate:
- Amorphous silicon (a-Si)
- Cadmium telluride (CdTe)
- Copper indium gallium selenide (CIS/CIGS)
- Organic photovoltaic cells (OPC)
Much less efficient than crystalline silicon panels, these types of solar cells are mostly advantageous because they are so cheap.
They are known for performing well in cloudy or low light situations.
Thin Film Solar Panels are not feasible for most applications , due to the space they’d need to install the amount of thin-film solar panels needed to power their homes. That coupled with their much shorter lifespan and the higher installation costs (more panels = more cable, labour & installation time).
It is easy to see why the Thin Film technology is being used less and less.
Installing the right solar energy system is a big decision. And, as technology advances, more options are becoming available. Solar panels when installed correctly have an excellent return on investment. We used to have to convince the end user of this but now the savings are known. Our job now is to help you find the right product for your site specific needs. Feel free to ask us questions so we can help you make an informed choice.
Send an email or give us a call to arrange a free onsite quote.
The top three images are of polycrystaline solar panels and as production techniques have improved they have changed from being very mottled in colour as in the center picture to less so as shown in the other two pictures.
The bottom two images are examples of monocrystaline panels and although the technique of producing these remains the same the process is getting more efficient. Some manufacturers are producing bigger discs and removing more waste so the individual solar panels are becoming more square. This is maximizing the available space on the solar panel and making them look more like the polycrystaline cells.