Different Types of Solar Panels

10 Jan 2018

Solar panels break down into three different types: polycrystalline, monocrystalline, and thin film. Before deciding which type of solar panel is right for you, learn about each type in order to make the best investment.

Monocrystalline

Monocrystalline was the first type of solar panel to come about in the 1950s. The cells used here are cut into cylinders from silicon, each individual one looking quite like a wafer. Tens of these wafers come together to form a monocrystalline panel.

Monocrystalline Pros

The quality of silicon used to create these panels is generally very high. In fact, they have the highest rate of performance in the solar industry. They outperform the other models and also are economical in their use of space. Together, this creates a high-power yield per square footage.  Because these are such high-quality panels, the warranties that come with them often last 25 years or longer.  They also do pretty well when it comes to low-light conditions and using all the solar power available when it’s not so bright out.

Monocrystalline Cons

Every pro has its cons. While monocrystalline panels are great, their disadvantages are also significant. Their extremely high quality comes with a high price tag. While they tend to last a while, circuit breakdown can be a common occurrence if the panel is significantly obstructed or shaded. These panels work their best when it is sunny and warm, but their performance steadily declines if the temperatures increase too much. Beyond their performance, they also produce quite a bit of waste during production, which is never good for the environment.

Polycrystalline

The main difference between polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels comes down to the way silicon is used. Instead of cutting the wafer shape as in monocrystalline panels, manufacturers pour the silicon into molds to create the polycrystalline panels.

Polycrystalline Pros

They do perform a bit lower in high temperatures than monocrystalline panels do, however, the difference is so slight that these are usually a pretty good option for those looking for an affordable yet effective solar panel. In contrast to how monocrystalline panels are made, the manufacturing of polycrystalline panels produces very little waste.

Polycrystalline Cons

The efficiency is markedly lower than monocrystalline – usually between 13 and 16 percent lower. Though this would be the main reason the cost is so much more affordable. They also are not as space-friendly and require much more room when being installed in order to create equal electrical output to that of a monocrystalline panel.

Thin Film Panels

Thin film solar panels are created by thinly layering a photovoltaic element on top of each other over and over again. In case you didn’t know, a photovoltaic element is a solar cell that converts light (in the form of photons) into electricity (through voltage) to create usable energy. When light shines onto the solar cell (often amorphous silicon but could also be organic photovoltaic cells), it creates an electric field that bands together across the layers of material, causing electricity to flow.

Thin Film Panels Pros

There are many advantages, but unfortunately, they don’t usually outweigh the disadvantages of thin film panels. They are extremely lightweight and typically immune to any issues that stem from shade or general obstruction of the panel. They also perform well in low light. They are easily to produce in large quantities, which makes them a very affordable panel

Thin Film Panels Cons

The weighty downsides thin film comes along with include low efficiency, large space requirements, higher cost due to maintenance and support elements, and a short life span. While they might seem like the quickest option due to the low initial price, you end up paying for them later.

Make the Right Decision for You

If cost is an issue with you, thin film panels or polycrystalline may be your best bet. As far as all the options go, monocrystalline is generally considered the best in the business, but it comes with a hefty price tag. But If money is no option, it would be smart to seriously consider investing in this type of panel. If you need solar panels for your business, have a look at our commercial solar panels.

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