Solar Panel Types
If you were to compare one solar panel to the next, you would notice differences, like the shade of black or blue that they have against each another. One panel will be a consistent colour throughout and another would have more variation in colour. Some panels have cells that are square, others have rounded edges.
What does this tell us?
There are 3 main types of solar panel, monocrystalline, polycrystalline and Thin Film.
90%+ of PV solar panels installed today are considered silicon-based, “crystalline” panels that get their name from having either a monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon molecular structure, or in some cases a hybrid of the two.
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 a solar energy system is a big purchase. And, as technology advances, more and more options are becoming available. Ultimately, you’ll need to consider a number of things before purchasing solar panels, though cost and space are the big ones. Solar panels are very costly, but they can have a huge return on investment. Just take a look at your first energy bill after installing solar panels – that will help you realize the great decision that you have made.
To streamline and simplify the product selection process we are able to supply you with a brand specific detailed production forecast that will simplify all the numbers and compare the various brands on a level playing field
This forecast will show you exactly what you will produce from your system on a month by month basis showing you the exact financial return from your investment
Give us a call for a free onsite quote and we will arm you with all the information you need to make the right decision
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.