There are three main different types of solar panels. Each type has its own unique set of advantages and, maybe, disadvantages.
It is important to know the different types of solar panels because your choice will determine the cost and amount of roof space your solar installation requires.
What are solar panels?
Solar panels are used to collect solar energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. A solar panel is composed of individual solar cells. Each solar cell is made from layers of silicon, boron, and phosphorus.
The boron layer provides the positive charge, the phosphorus layer provides the negative charge, and the silicon wafer acts as the semiconductor.
When the sun’s photons strike the surface of the panel, it knocks out electrons from the silicon “sandwich” and into the electric field generated by the solar cells. This results in a directional current, which is then harnessed into usable power. The entire process is called the photovoltaic effect, which is why solar panels are also known as photovoltaic panels or PV panels. A typical solar panel contains 60, 72, or 90 individual solar cells.
Types of solar panel
There are three main types of solar panels that are commercially available. They include:
- Monocrystalline solar panels
- Polycrystalline solar panels
- Thin-film solar panels
1. Monocrystalline solar panels
The monocrystalline solar panels are the most popular types of solar panels used in rooftop solar panel installations today.
Monocrystalline solar panels have unique features that are considered better than the other two types of panels. They are as follows:
- The pyramid pattern of the cells offers a larger surface area to collect more energy from the sun’s rays.
- Cells are coated with silicon nitride to reduce reflection and thereby increase absorption.
- The produced electricity is collected through metal conductors printed onto the cells.
- It has a higher efficiency of conversion of solar energy into electric energy than its two other counterparts.
- These panels have a longevity of up to 30 years.
- These panels exhibit greater heat resistance.
Because of their many advantages, monocrystalline solar panels can be used as follows:
- Can be used as solar rooftops in urban and rural areas.
- These panels are highly recommended for solar applications on a larger scale—on vast tracts of uncultivable land.
- These panels are also useful for residential and commercial applications.
- These panels are extremely useful in lighting up gardens.
- These panels can form an array and be used to power rural homes.
- These panels are perfect for street lighting as stand-alone panels.
2. Polycrystalline solar panels
Polycrystalline solar panels are solar panels that consist of several crystals of silicon in a single PV cell.
Features of polycrystalline solar panels include:
- Polycrystalline solar panels have lower heat tolerance than monocrystalline panels. So, at higher temperatures, these solar panels have lower efficiency than others.
- Polycrystalline solar panels have a higher temperature coefficient than monocrystalline panels.
- These panels have a high power density.
- They come with a structural frame of their own which makes mounting cheaper and simpler.
Application of polycrystalline solar panels:
- They can be used in large solar farms.
- They are suitable for roof-mounted arrays.
- They are used in self-powered devices such as traffic lights, and off-grid households.
3. Thin film solar panels
A thin-film solar panel is made up of one or more thin layers of photovoltaic materials that are laid onto a substrate.
Features of thin film solar panel:
- They are more flexible and lightweight.
- Installation is much easier than the others.
- These solar panels are most suitable for applications with large rooftops or wide open spaces.
Application of thin-film solar panels
- They can be used in solar farms.
- They can be used to power traffic lights and street lights.
- They can be installed in large-sized steel water tanks to provide electricity for pumping water.
There are three main different types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels.
Knowing the difference between each of them helps you in making the right choice during solar panel installations.