Photovoltaic solar panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity.
But as is the case with many technological inventions, not all PV panels accomplish this goal in the same way. One of the biggest decisions you face when planning a photovoltaic system is which type of solar panels to choose.
Currently, three types of panels are available: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film, each created using slightly different technology.
To help you determine which type of photovoltaic panel is right to power your home or business, we have put together some basic information on the pros and cons of each.
Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Panels
Monocrystalline silicon technology is responsible for starting the transition to solar power. First commercialized in the 1950s, these photovoltaic modules are made of thin wafers cut from a single crystal of crystalline silicon.
This technology may be decades old, but monocrystalline silicon is still considered to be the most efficient type of solar cell. According to a recent report by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), the efficiency of single crystal silicon solar modules has reached 22.9 percent under laboratory conditions.
The drawback to using monocrystalline photovoltaic panels is price. Because they are made with high-purity silicon, these modules are slightly more expensive than other available options.
Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels are also made of crystalline silicon. But this technology, developed in the 1980s, uses multiple crystals of raw silicon. These crystals are melted and poured into square molds to create photovoltaic panels.
The manufacturing process of polycrystalline solar cells is much easier, and therefore, less expensive than that of monocrystalline cells. So choosing these photovoltaic panels will result in lower system costs.
The tradeoff here is that polycrystalline modules are not as efficient. Under Fraunhofer ISE laboratory conditions, their efficiency topped out at 19.2 percent.
Thin Film Solar Panels
Thin film solar modules are created by depositing layers of a photovoltaic element onto glass or steel. Research and development of this technology began in the 1970s. Today, manufacturers use several different types of thin film elements, including amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide.
Mass production of thin film photovoltaic panels is quite simple, so these panels can be cheaper. The drawbacks are reduced efficiency, a larger space requirement and a significant reduction in durability.
The average maximum efficiency for thin film modules tested under laboratory conditions at Fraunhofer ISE was only 15.7 percent — significantly less than both monocrystalline and polycrystalline photovoltaic panels. And thin film panels degrade, or lose efficiency over time, faster than crystalline silicon modules. They are also much more fragile than the other two options.
Choosing the right photovoltaic modules for your home or business will require careful consideration of costs and efficiency ratings as well as other factors, such as power output and manufacturer reliability. At Intermountain Wind & Solar, we only offer monocrystalline and polycrystalline photovoltaic panels because of their efficiency and durability.
We serve commercial and residential clients in Utah and throughout the Intermountain West. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We look forward to telling you more about your options and recommending the best solar panels to suit your needs.