Different Types of Solar Panels
Did you know the world’s energy needs for one year can be covered by the sun generating power for only one minute? In fact, within 24 hours the Sun can generate more energy than the entire population would consume in 27 years. Thus, solar energy is not only a truly reliable and lasting energy source but also a very cost-effective and efficient one, if the chosen types of solar panels and the environment are perfectly matched to one another. Such promising prospects have grown in an industry that has put a lot of effort into developing efficient techniques to generate, use, and store the sun’s energy by using different types of solar panels and converting the sunlight into valuable electricity. Solar panel installations have grown explosively all over the world in the last ten years. The best part is their costs have dramatically plummeted by 99% over the last four decades, so there’s no better time than now to take advantage of clean solar energy for your home or business to lower the electricity bill.
When looking at the graph below, it becomes easy to see the rapid increase in solar photovoltaic power generation.
Only few people are aware of the different technologies that exist on the market for solar energy such as solar thermal and solar water heating. Whereas these alternatives to the classical types of solar panels are mainly used for heating water, the following paragraphs give a more detailed introduction to the different types of solar panels that are used for generating green electricity. Several decades of research, work, and development have lead to the wide range of different types of solar panels now available on the market for solar panels.
Types of Solar Panels
Different types of solar panels serve different needs and purposes.
1. Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI)
This type of solar panels (made of monocrystalline silicon) is the purest one. You can easily recognize them from the uniform dark look and the rounded edges. The silicon’s high purity causes this type of solar panel has one of the highest efficiency rates, with the newest ones reaching above 20%. Monocrystalline panels have a high power output, occupy less space, and last the longest. Of course, that also means they are the most expensive of the bunch. Another advantage to consider is that they tend to be slightly less affected by high temperatures compared to polycrystalline panels.
2. Polycrystalline Solar Panels (Poly-SI)
You can quickly distinguish these panels because this type of solar panels has squares, its angles are not cut, and it has a blue, speckled look. They are made by melting raw silicon, which is a faster and cheaper process than that used for monocrystalline panels. This leads to a lower final price but also lower efficiency (around 15%), lower space efficiency, and a shorter lifespan since they are affected by hot temperatures to a greater degree. However, the differences between mono- and polycrystalline types of solar panels are not so significant and the choice will strongly depend on your specific situation. The first option offers a slightly higher space efficiency at a slightly higher price but power outputs are the same.
3. Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)
If you are looking for a less expensive option, you might want to look into thin-film. Thin-film solar panels are manufactured by placing one or more films of photovoltaic material (such as silicon, cadmium, or copper) onto a substrate. These types of solar panels are the easiest to produce and economies of scale make them cheaper than the alternatives due to less material being needed for its production. They are also flexible—which opens a lot of opportunities for alternative applications—and is less affected by high temperatures. The main issue is that they take up a lot of space, generally making them unsuitable for residential installations. Moreover, they carry the shortest warranties because their lifespan is shorter than the mono- and polycrystalline types of solar panels. However, they can be a good option to choose among the different types of solar panels where a lot of space is available.
Most of the solar panel options currently available fit in one of three types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as multi-crystalline), and thin-film. These solar panels vary in how they’re made, appearance, performance, costs, and the installations each are best suited for. If you would like to know more about the different types of solar panels and other green energy options, contact us today!