When considering the installation of solar panels, you usually consider factors such as cost, aesthetics, and energy efficiency. While these are all important considerations, there is one factor in solar panels that affects all three: the type of solar panels you select. The different types of solar panels on the market today will influence the cost of installation and manufacturing, as well as how the panels will appear on your roof. It is one of the most important factors to consider when installing solar panels.
There are three types of solar panels, each with advantages and disadvantages. The best solar panels for you will be determined by your specific situation and what you expect solar panels to do for you. In this guide, we’ll go over the different types of solar panels, the benefits and drawbacks of each, and how to choose the best type of solar panel for you.
What are the three kinds of solar panels?
Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels are the three types of solar panels. Each of these types of solar cells is made differently and has a distinct aesthetic appearance. The following is a breakdown of each type of solar panel.
Solar Panels, Monocrystalline
Monocrystalline solar panels are the most developed and oldest type of solar panel. These monocrystalline solar panels are constructed from approximately 40 monocrystalline solar cells. These solar cells are made entirely of silicon. A silicon crystal is placed in a vat of molten silicon during the manufacturing process (known as the Czochralski method). The crystal is then slowly drawn out of the vat, allowing the molten silicon to form a solid crystal shell around it known as an ingot. After that, the ingot is thinly sliced into silicon wafers. The wafer is converted into a cell, and the cells are then connected to form a solar panel.
Because of the way sunlight interacts with pure silicon, monocrystalline solar cells appear black. While the cells are black, the back sheets and frames come in a variety of colours and designs. The monocrystalline cells have a square shape with the corners removed, resulting in small gaps between the cells.
Solar Panels with Polycrystalline Crystals
Polycrystalline solar panels are a relatively new development, but they are rapidly gaining popularity and efficiency. Polycrystalline cells, like monocrystalline panels, are made of silicon. Polycrystalline cells, on the other hand, are made from melted silicon crystal fragments. The silicon crystal is placed in a vat of molten silicon during the manufacturing process. Instead of slowly pulling it out, this crystal is allowed to fragment and cool. After cooling in its mould, the fragmented silicon is thinly sliced into polycrystalline solar wafers. These wafers are combined to form a polycrystalline panel.
Because of the way sunlight reflects off the crystals, polycrystalline cells are blue. Sunlight reflects differently off silicon fragments than it does from a pure silicon cell. The back frames and frames are usually silver with polycrystalline, but this can vary. The cell is square in shape, and there are no gaps between cell corners.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
Thin-film solar panels are a relatively new innovation in the solar panel industry. Thin-film panels are distinguished by the fact that they are not always made of silicon. They can be made of a variety of materials such as cadmium telluride (CdTe), amorphous silicon (a-Si), and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS). The main material is sandwiched between thin sheets of conductive material, with a layer of glass on top for protection. The a-Si panels contain silicon, but it is non-crystalline silicon that is topped with glass.
Thin-film panels are easily identified by their thin appearance, as the name implies. These panels are roughly 350 times thinner than those made with silicon wafers. However, thin-film frames can be quite large at times, giving the entire solar system the appearance of a monocrystalline or polycrystalline system. Thin-film cells can be black or blue, depending on the material used.
Aside from differences in manufacturing and appearance, there are some differences in how each type of solar cell performs. The two most important categories are efficiency and price. Here’s how each type of solar panel compares in terms of efficiency and affordability, as well as other considerations.
The efficiency of a solar panel refers to how much energy it can generate from the amount of sunlight it receives. In essence, efficiency determines how much power a solar panel can generate. Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient type of solar panel. Monocrystalline solar panels have an efficiency of more than 20%. Polycrystalline panels, on the other hand, typically achieve only 15 to 17 percent efficiency. As technology improves to make polycrystalline panels more efficient, the gap between the two panels may close in the future. Thin-film solar panels are the least efficient.
Thin-film typically has a lower efficiency and produces less power than either of the crystalline options, with an efficiency of only about 11%. However, because there is no standard size, the power capacity of a thin-film panel can vary, and some models may produce more power than others.
Price can make or break a solar decision, and one of the most important factors influencing price is the type of solar cells you select. Thin-film panels are the most affordable solar panels because they can be manufactured at the lowest cost. CdTe solar panels are the least expensive on the market, but CIGS can be more expensive.
Thin-film frames are typically lighter, allowing you to save money on installation. Monocrystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are currently the most expensive option. The cost of producing pure silicon is high, and the panels and frames are heavy, resulting in higher installation costs. Polycrystalline panels were created to reduce the cost of solar panels, and they are typically less expensive than monocrystalline panels. However, as innovators discover more efficient ways to manufacture monocrystalline solar cells, the gap between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels may close.
Other considerations include temperature coefficient, hail resistance, fire resistance, UL and IEC listings, and so on.
Aside from cost and efficiency, there are a number of other factors to consider when selecting solar panels. The temperature coefficient is one factor. Temperature coefficients for monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are typically in the -0.3% / °C to -0.5% / °C range. Thin-film panels have coefficients that are closer to -0.2% / °C.
This means that as the temperature rises, some solar panels will produce more power than others. This is especially important to consider in a state like North Carolina, where the high temperatures can be extreme.
Another thing to think about is the fire rating, which can vary depending on the type of roof you have and the type of panel you select. Because fire isn’t the only natural disaster that can damage your roof, you should also consider hail ratings. Most monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels can withstand a 25mm drop at 50 miles per hour, but the exact rating varies and can affect the lifespan of your solar system. You may also want to look into heterojunction solar cell technology (HJT), which combines monocrystalline silicon wafers with amorphous silicon, for your system. HJT has the highest efficiency, lowest temperature coefficient, and no Light Induced Degradation (LID)Finally, you should think about LID because efficiency loss can reduce the amount of energy you can produce.
When designing and recommending a solar PV system, our engineers take into account all of these different factors. We consider the overall system lifecycle and efficiency in all conditions that your solar PV system will be subjected to, not just in ideal scenarios.
It is a good idea to have a basic understanding of how solar panels work, but we understand that selecting the right type of solar panels can be difficult. Our solar experts at 8MSolar are available to assess your needs and assist you in making the best decision for your specific situation.
The Most Effective Solar Panels
So, which is better: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film panels? The best type of solar panels is determined by the purpose of the panels and the location in which they will be installed. Polycrystalline panels may be the best choice for residential properties with a large roof space or property. These panels are the most cost-effective for large spaces while still providing adequate efficiency and power. Monocrystalline solar panels may be the best option for residential properties with limited space. These panels are ideal for people who want to reduce their energy bills while living in a small space.
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are suitable for use in homes and other similar structures. Thin-film solar panels are almost never used on residential properties due to their low efficiency. Thin-film solar panels, on the other hand, are ideal for commercial buildings that cannot support the additional weight of traditional panels. Though thin-film is less efficient, commercial roofs have more space for panels to cover more of the roof. You can also check out solar panels lake macquarie
If you’re not sure which type of solar panels will work best for your project or if you need help understanding solar panel technology, our experts at 8MSolar can assist you in determining the best panels for your specific project.