The most common types of solar panels are monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, and thin-film solar panels. However, more types of panels are gaining increasing popularity as time passes.
Having a clear answer to the question “what are the different types of solar panels” can help inform your decision about the best solar panel systems.
Before deciding on the best solar panel option for you, you need to understand more about these devices first.
What Are Solar Panels?
These are devices that help harness solar energy. A solar panel converts sunlight into electricity, and the standard solar panel is made up of a solar cell.
These photovoltaic cells are responsible for the ability of solar energy systems to create electricity. Solar cell technologies create solar cells by combining elements like boron, phosphorus, and silicon into energy conversion layers.
The boron layer provides a positive charge, while the phosphorus layer supplies the negative charge. The layers of silicon wafers serve as a semiconductor in solar panel systems.
The entire phenomenon by which photovoltaic systems convert light into electricity is referred to as a photovoltaic effect.
What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?
These include monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels, and thin-film solar panels. They come in different solar panel sizes and wattage and these are the most readily available solar panel technology at the moment.
Here’s more information on what each of these forms of solar power technology has to offer.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
This type of panel is created from pure silicon, hence its black cells in sunlight. Monocrystalline panels are the oldest source of solar power technology.
Monocrystalline modules or mono panels are made through the Czochralski Process. This manufacturing process requires that single-crystal silicon be fully immersed in a vat of molten silicon.
Then, this silicon crystal is slowly pulled out of the molten silicon vat to form a silicon ingot.
Once the cylindrical ingot is obtained, it is sliced into monocrystalline silicon wafers. Finally, the silicon wafers are made into photovoltaic cells and assembled into a solar panel.
In this form, these renewable energy sources are ready for use.
Pros Of Monocrystalline Silicon Panels
- Monocrystalline solar panels have one of the longest lifespans among solar panel systems.
- This crystalline silicon solar energy source boasts the highest efficiency levels, making it your most electrical energy-efficient option.
- Monocrystalline silicon panels also have high space efficiency, helping you optimize roof space.
- They’re considered high-quality solar panels because of their high hail ratings and weatherproof capabilities.
- The difference between monocrystalline solar panel cells and the rest is clear in their response to high ambient temperature. Because they have a higher temperature coefficient, they perform better than other panels in poor weather conditions.
Cons Of Monocrystalline Silicon Panels
- They are an expensive option to use for solar panel systems.
- While the gap between monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells in terms of concentrating solar-thermal power basics is still wide, it’s closing rapidly. As such, many don’t consider monocrystalline solar panels to be worth it.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Poly panels are also made from silicon crystal and have a blue color. After monocrystalline technology solar cells, these panels are arguably the next most prevalent type of renewable energy resource.
These panels are made from pieces of silicon crystals melted together. The manufacturing process typically centers around putting the pieces of crystalline silicon or seed crystal into the molten silicon.
The silicon is allowed to fragment and cool, after which it is cut up into polycrystalline wafers. This is then made into polycrystalline modules. The blue cells are formed by the sun rays on these crystals.
Pros Of Polycrystalline Silicon Panels
- The production costs are lesser than mono panels, making these panels the cheapest option for most people.
- The efficiency levels that the material composite can reach are gradually increasing.
- It also leaves less environmental impact and waste due to how the silicon wafers are placed on the panel.
Cons Of Polycrystalline Silicon Panels
- Its solar panel cells have low silicon purity, which affects the efficiency of its energy conversion layers.
- Until it becomes even more energy-efficient, its space efficiency will remain low. This means poly panels will occupy more roof space than their monocrystalline counterparts.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
These ranked among the newest innovations in the solar manufacturing industry. They distinguish themselves from their predecessors by being made with and without silicon.
Thin-film panels are made by preparing thin layers of conductive material and placing the main material in-between. Then, a layer of glass is placed on top to protect this structure.
Thin-film technologies leverage a variety of materials to produce different types of panels. For example, copper indium gallium selenide can be used to produce CIGS panels, amorphous silicon can be used to create a-Si amorphous panels, and cadmium telluride can be used to make CdTe panels.
The amorphous silicon used to make a-Si is special, non-crystalline silicon. These panels are several times thinner than their polycrystalline and monocrystalline counterparts, giving them lighter weight.
Pros Of Thin-Film Panels
- They offer one of the lowest cost options among renewable energy sources. As such, they offer a lesser cost per watt.
- The semiconductor material maintains optimal electricity production at hot temperatures.
- They are flexible to use.
- They offer high space and electricity efficiency levels.
Cons Of Thin-Film Panels
- They require more roof space to provide optimal results.
- Thin-film technologies are still developing, so it remains to be seen just how durable it is.
- Certain thin-film panels like CdTe expose you to toxic elements.
What are the different types of solar panels? Which type is best? The best type of solar panel comes down to personal preference, and each setup comes with different flaws.
The good news is, that the solar panel industry is continuously evolving, meaning new innovations are being created every day.
You can always consult a professional if you’d like help in determining the best portable solar panels for you.