Solar Panels: What You Need to Know About the Types

The modern energy industry has shown a tremendous growth and development in recent years, which has greatly increased the interest in solar panels. That is a high-level technology that helps convert the energy from the sun into electricity.  The use of natural energy sources has become available not only for large “monsters” of production, but also for ordinary families living in private houses. However, buying and installing new solar panels remains quite expensive. In order for the future investment to pay off and become profitable, it is worth getting know the types of solar panels and choosing the ideal option.

First, let’s figure out what kinds of batteries are currently on the market and what are their advantages. Today you can install such kinds of solar panels:

  • Monocrystalline;
  • Polycrystalline;
  • Thin film batteries;
  • PERC panels;

Experts say that all the used solar panels show great capacity (compared to the batteries presented in the last decade). However, some of them are still more efficient and accordingly more profitable when used in the household. Solar panel comparison will help you choose the best option.

Benefits of monocrystalline solar panels

This type of solar module is also known as single-crystal module. According to the latest research and statistics, the used solar panels of this kind show the highest level of efficiency. This indicator reaches 16-18%, which, in comparison with other types of natural energy sources, causes confidence in the efficiency and payback of such an installation.

Monocrystalline solar panels are made from pure silicone, which is cut into thin wafers. To create a monolithic panel, a high quality source material is used, which also affects the amount of energy generated by this system. It is important to note that monocrystalline solar panels are capable of converting electricity in low light conditions. Thanks to this, they remain effective during autumn and winter, when the duration of the sunny day is significantly reduced.

Visually, such panels also benefit – rich black color suits almost every style of roof.

So, the main advantages of these solar panels are the following facts:

  • high level of efficiency – 16-18%;
  • resistance to different temperatures;
  • conversion of electricity not only in solar time;

The obvious disadvantage is the price, which is much higher than the cost of other commonly used solar panels. A hefty price can be rewarded later, but in some cases it is better to look for a cheaper option on the market and calculate the cost for future payback.

Polycrystalline solar panels and their advantages

The second most popular type of used solar panels is the polycrystalline module. This is an installation that processes the incoming solar energy in a similar way as other types of solar panels. The fundamental difference lies in the shape of the crystals used to produce the module. This difference can be seen even visually and with the naked eye – the surface of polycrystalline panels is not so smooth, and the color has different shades.

Given the level of efficiency, polycrystalline solar panels are still inferior to monocrystalline ones. Recent studies in the field of energy have shown that, on average, their efficiency reaches a maximum of 18%. The reason for this is the presence of various impurities in the starting material. This affects the process of energy processing. Another nuance of polycrystalline solar panels is the frequent premature destruction of the crystalline elements on the surface of the batteries. The reason for this is the penetration of small oxygen particles through microcracks, which are often present in the original material.

A huge advantage of polycrystalline solar panels is their price. They are much cheaper than monocrystalline ones, since their production requires less expensive processes. Also, a significant advantage of these modules is their ability to generate energy when the sun’s rays hit the surface not only directly at a right angle, but also at a slope. This effect is achieved due to the fact that the photovoltaic cells have a non-uniform structure and can generate current more stably in “worst” conditions. Thus, in regions where the weather is more often cloudy, without long periods of sunshine, the installation of polycrystalline panels will be more profitable.

Main technical characteristics of polycrystalline batteries:

  • efficiency – 12-18%;
  • a large area is required for power generation;
  • less durable;
  • cheaper;
  • suitable for cloudy regions.

Poly vs mono solar panels: what’s better?

Both types of solar panels are popular and considered to be effective, but you have to choose anyway. Before you make the decision it’s better to make a thorough comparison of modules and study the efficiency of them in particular weather conditions, on the exact surface etc.

Let’s look at the main differences of poly and mono solar modules:

Appearance – monocrystalline panels have a beautiful uniform structure due to ideal cells. Polycrystalline modules have square elements in them, which also does not affect the “beauty” of the panel, but still “striking” sometimes.

Efficiency – According to recent research, monocrystalline panels operate more efficiently and give more electricity than polycrystalline panels. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • efficiency of mono systems – maximum 22%
  • efficiency of poly systems – maximum 18%

It is worth noting that the efficiency of the panel affects the area that is needed to generate the optimal amount of energy. The higher the efficiency index, the fewer panels need to be installed. Accordingly, if you have a small area, monocrystalline panels will compensate for this.

  1. Price – polycrystalline solar panels are slightly cheaper than monocrystalline ones. This is primarily due to the process of making modules, single-crystal systems are made from selected raw materials.
  • Lifetime service. Practice shows that the average life of solar panels reaches about 20 years. After this time, the results of all solar systems drop by 10-15%. Comparing monocrystalline and polycrystalline, it is worth noting that modern mono systems can last even 30 years, which obviously makes them profitable.

Thin film solar panels

This is another type of solar panel that is becoming popular in the market and has performed quite well in practice. The name speaks for itself – during the production of the module, a special technique of applying thin film layers is used.

Photovoltaic materials are deposited on a special substrate and create a highly efficient structure capable of processing the received solar energy. A panel of this type requires less cost during production, and therefore the price of the final product is also lower. However, it should be borne in mind that this type of installation requires more space and area, since the overall efficiency is not as high as that of crystalline panels. However, this kind of photosystem does an excellent job of converting solar energy into electricity.

Benefits of thin film solar systems

  • attractive style (solar panel designs of this type are very beautiful);
  • optimal cost;
  • excellent resistance to high temperatures;
  • high efficiency;

Disadvantages of thin film panels:

  • for their installation requires more area than in the case of crystalline modules;
  • the warranty period is slightly shorter;

Those who have the ability to install panels over a large area stop their choice on thin-film solar energy processing systems. Then a large number of panel units will be covered by low cost, which in total will give a good result in the form of quality energy.

Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell Solar Panels

A new technology in the world of solar systems that conquers the lists of the best modules is called PERC. This is the Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell, an upgraded version of the classic batteries that uses innovative solar power  conversion technology.

How does it work?

Passive elements are installed at the back of the solar panel. When the sun’s rays fall on these particles, the process of production of free charges does not occur. The light from the sun’s rays is redirected to active cells, in which current is already directly produced. Such solar panels are capable of absorbing and processing a huge amount of solar energy.

The popularity of the new generation of solar systems is due to the fact that production does not require increased investment. This technology can significantly increase the efficiency of conventional solar panels, as it can be applied, for example, to classical polycrystalline modules. Thanks to this technology, it is possible to improve the result of photovoltaic solar cells by 1.5%.

If you have limited space to install solar panels, PERC technology will give you more freedom of action and room for creativity. Limited space may require the installation of extremely expensive but highly efficient panels such as monocrystalline. But, if you install cheaper polycrystalline modules and apply PERC technology to them, their efficiency will be much higher. and thus you can win and get a great option.

Advantages of PERC technology:

  • increases the overall efficiency of the solar panels used;
  • does not affect the appearance of the roof and the house;
  • the cost of installation in the future quickly pays off.

Should this technology be installed? This question can only be answered by calculating the area and efficiency of the panels that will be installed on this site.

Solar Panel Types by Power Capacity

The power of solar systems is one of the key parameters that influence the choice of buyers. This is quite logical, since the method of installation, the performance of the modules and their payback depend on the power. Which panels have the most power?

The most powerful and efficient solar systems are certainly crystalline. Both mono and poly modules are known for a high level of power and efficiency. The rating according to energy capacity looks like this:

  • up to 20% – monocrystalline solar systems;
  • up to 17% – polycrystalline installations;

PERC technology can increase the efficiency of wallpaper types of solar cells by up to 5%, which significantly affects the positive balance of the installation.

Compared to crystalline solar systems, thin film panels show slightly less power. On average, the picture looks like this:

  • GICS panels reach 12-13% efficiency
  • CdTE can operate at 9 to 11% efficiency;
  • a-Si solar panels show the lowest result – about 8%.

When it comes to the power that solar panels can produce in terms of volume, monocrystalline solar systems clearly win here. These units are capable of generating up to 300w. Polycrystalline solar panels can handle up to 240w, while the latest models have been upgraded so that their performance can reach the same 300w as in the case of monocrystalline panels.

The performance issue of thin-film solar modules is a little more complicated, since they are not produced in a single size, which makes it difficult to measure the average power. The productivity of one panel of the same size and shape can differ significantly from a panel that has a different area and format.

Types of Solar Systems by its cost

The price of solar modules is definitely not the last point that affects the choice. The exact cost of the panels themselves and installation depends on several factors:

  • type of solar panels;
  • the area on which the installation will be located;
  • season;
  • design.
  • availability of additional funding by climate protection programs.

If we take into account only the price of the panels themselves, the most expensive today are monocrystalline solar panels, because they are made using high-quality and expensive raw materials. Polycrystalline solar panels will cost a little less, as they are easier and less expensive to manufacture. The price of thin film solar panels differs depending on the type:

  • CIGS (Copper indium gallium selenide) – lead the ranking in value;
  • CdTe (Cadmium telluride) is considered a more budget-friendly option.

Comparative cost of the most popular and used solar systems (per watt):

  • PERC system $0.31-$0.66
  • Monocrystalline panels $1 – $1.50
  • Polycrystalline system $0.70 – $1.1
  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) $0.59 – $0.69
  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe) $0.51 – $0.61
  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si)

In addition to cost and power, there are other important factors to consider when choosing solar panels. For example, the level of fire safety that characterizes a particular solar system. To date, there are 3 types of solar panels, depending on the level of fire safety:

  • class A;
  • class B;
  • class C.

It is also worth considering how much space you have available for installing solar systems. If the area is limited, you should opt for high-performance panels, but if there is a place where you can “roam around”, panels are suitable, the low efficiency of which is compensated by a large number of them.

Which type of panels to install is not an easy decision, but having detailed characteristics, comparisons and analysis in front of you, you can make the right choice, which in the future will become an excellent investment and eco-friendly behavior.

Kateryna Ryzha

Kateryna Ryzha

Kateryna is an experienced writer with a focus in solar energy. She is a specialist in several topics related to energy efficiency, technical applications, renewable energy, and more as a consequence of her extensive reading.

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