Types of Solar Panels (Mono, Poly, Thin-Film & 3 Others)

Solar Panel Types

In a world exhausted with fossil fuels, solar energy can be one of the sustainable solutions to our energy problems.

Solar panels are used to convert solar energy into electricity.

Today, there are many types of solar panels available in the market.

But, Do you know which one is perfect for you?

Semiconductors such as Silicon & Boron are used for the manufacturing of these solar panels.

We have discussed in detail about the composition of solar panels in our previous post.

In this post, I will be discussing the various types of solar panels , their characteristics, benefits and their cost comparison.

Each solar panel has its own pros & cons. I will try to cover both of them.

Let’s dive right in.

Types of Solar panels

Solar panels are an interconnected network of solar cell . And, it is mounted over a metal framework.

And these solar cells convert the solar energy into electricity by the photovoltaic effect.

The three main types of solar panels are:

  1. Monocrystalline solar panels
  2. Polycrystalline solar panels &
  3. Thin film solar panels

Monocrystalline Solar panels

The silicon used in making solar panels comes naturally in the form of rocks. These rocks are melted down & silicon boules are created.

Later, these boules are sliced in the form of disks (called wafers). Finally, these wafers are converted into solar cells.

Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Let’s have a look at various physical properties of monocrystalline solar panels.

Physical Appearance: 

In these solar panels, the wafers are cut from a single Silicon crystal. And, this silicon crystal has a uniform black color indicating its high purity.

Also, the shape of wafers in monocrystalline solar panels are octagonal.

Efficiency: 

Monocrystalline solar panels absorb 18% of sunlight available. Also, these are the most efficient solar panels in terms of electricity generation.

Performance:

These panels perform better in unfavourable conditions such as low light conditions and high temperature.

Also, monocrystalline solar panels are space efficient and produce more electricity per square foot as compared to other solar panels.

LifeSpan: 

Monocrystalline solar panels last for about 25 years.

Cost: 

As these solar panels are made from pure silicon crystal; hence, these are the most expensive when it comes to cost.

Polycrystalline Solar panels

Polycrystalline or multicrystalline solar panels consist of several crystals of silicon in a single photovoltaic cell.

For the manufacturing of these solar panels, two or more fragments of silicon crystal are melted together and then cut into wafers.

Polycrystalline Solar Panel
Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Let’s see the characteristics of polycrystalline solar panels:

Physical Appearance:

These wafers are bluish in color and not very uniform in appearance.

Also, the shape of wafers in polycrystalline solar panels is either rectangular or square.

Efficiency: 

Polycrystalline solar panels absorb 15% of sunlight available.

And, these are the less efficient solar panels in comparison to monocrystalline solar panels.

Performance:

These solar panels do not perform good in low light conditions.

Life Span:

Polycrystalline solar panels have almost the same lifespan as monocrystalline i.e about 25 years.

Cost: 

These solar panels are highly cost effective.

Thin Film Solar panels

Flexible semiconductor materials are used to made these solar panels.

Also, these solar panels are light in weight.

Thin film solar panels are the slimmest solar panels available. And, hence these are often used with projects with less power requirement such as solar vehicles etc.

Thin-Film Solar Panel
Thin-Film Solar Panels

Now, Let’s see its characteristics:

Physical Appearance: 

These are different types of solar panels made by depositing thin layers of photovoltaic material on a substrate(surface). And, hence are flexible and lightweight.

These solar panels are categorized in terms of the material used for the substrate. 

List of materials used in thin film solar panels is:

  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si)
  • Gallium Arsenide(Ga As)
  • Cadmium Telluride(Cd Te)
  • Copper Indium Gallium Selenide(CIGS)

Efficiency: 

Among all substrates discussed above, Gallium Arsenide substrates are most efficient.

But, when it comes to the comparison of thin-film solar panels to other solar panels such as monocrystalline and polycrystalline; then, it is the least efficient.

Performance:

The performance of a thin-film solar panel is mainly dependent on:

The semiconductor chosen and the technology.

These solar panels are good for the projects with low power requirements.

Life Span:

Expected lifetime of Thin-film solar panel is about 20 years.

Cost: 

Since, the semiconductor materials used in place of pure silicon are cheaper to manufacture than crystalline silicon.

Thus, these solar panels are the cheapest.

Other Latest Solar Panels

I have already discussed the three major types of solar panels. 

However, there are some more types of solar panel technology available.

These panels may not be very popular at this moment, but their future can be bright.

Let’s take a brief review of these as well.

Concentrated PV Solar panels

These solar panels work on the principle to increase the output by supplying concentrating light to the solar cell.

Concentrated PV Solar Panel
Concentrated PV Solar Panels

This technology of solar power uses lenses or curved mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto the solar cell.

Since, it needs direct focus to sunlight hence sunlight tracking is necessary for achieving high efficiency which is a major challenge in these types of solar panels.

Bifacial Solar panels

These are two sided solar panels. That is, these can collect sun radiation from both sides.

Bifacial Solar panels

Top side works as a conventional or monofacial solar panel whereas the back side absorbs reflected or diffused sun radiation.

Because of which, these panels perform better in cloudy weather.

It is possible to install Bi facial solar panels both horizontally as well as vertically.

Generally, these solar panels are installed at height to avoid shedding from the rear side and get maximum power generation.

Bi facial solar panels have efficiency upto 30% more than monofacial solar panels but these solar panels are expensive as compared to them.

Solar Tiles

The primary difference between solar panels and solar tiles is that we need an existing roof to install the solar panels.

On the other hand, solar tiles are part of the roof’s construction from the very beginning.

Solar Tiles
Solar Tiles

These are more attractive than traditional photovoltaic or solar panels.

Conclusion

The photovoltaic industry is at a very interesting point right now. 

Upcoming technologies seems to be cost effective & highly efficient.

However, choosing a solar panel on price alone is not wise. 

Before investing in solar you should carefully research how the panels perform in real world situations.

I have discussed the various types of solar panels including their comparisons so that you can choose the best solar panel for your home or work.

Still, if you have any queries or suggestions, do not hesitate to leave a comment in the comment section.

You can also subscribe to our email newsletter for latest solar updates. Stay tuned with us and go solar!

Keerti Bhatnagar

Keerti is a tech geek with a vision to save the environment. She is from Uttarakhand, India. And, She is currently pursuing her MCA from G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar.

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  1. August 23, 2020

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