Choosing Proper Solar Panel Type, Part 1

There are a number of factors that will play a role in your solar panel installation, from the number of panels required to meet your energy needs to your roof space and angles, aesthetic themes and more. One other important variable here: Which type of solar panel is chosen, generally a decision you’ll make with the assistance of your solar power technician.

At Intermountain Wind & Solar, we’re happy to serve as comprehensive solar power experts for both residential and commercial solar power needs. Our solar technicians are experienced with all the latest in solar technology, and will guide you in the right direction for any technical parts of the installation process that you might need help with. Generally speaking, there are three broad types of solar panels utilized on modern buildings – this two-part blog series will go over each of them, plus some variables that will help you choose between them if you’re struggling in this area.


The oldest of these three types, and also likely still the most common today, is the monocrystalline panel. These panels are made from monocrystalline solar cells, which are comprised of pure silicon – a silicon crystal placed inside a vat of hot molten silicon. The crystal will be slowly pulled from the vat, allowing the silicon to form into a solid shell, which is then sliced into wafers. These wafers comprise the actual cell that makes up your panel.

To the human eye, monocrystalline solar cells will look pure black. This is because of the way the sun interacts with pure silicon – they are square-shaped but with no corners, leaving small gaps between the cells. More on how these factors impact your choice later in our series.


Polycrystalline solar panels are similar to monocrystalline in that they are made using silicon, but there are some significant differences here. These cells actually utilize fragments of silicon crystal that have been melted together in a different process than we described above, though the wafer-cell format remains as the end product.

For these cells, the appearance will be blue to the eye because the sun reflects off these silicon fragments differently than a pure silicon cell. Unlike monocrystalline cells, there is no gap between cell corners, as the shape is a perfect square.


The latest development in the solar panel world is the thin-film solar panel, which differs from the others in that it is not always made from silicon. Silicon may be used in some cases, but others will utilize cadmium, telluride, CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) or amorphous silicon. Panels involve the primary material being placed between sheets of conductive material, with glass on top to protect the setup and allow for light to enter.

Thin-film panels will, as the name suggests, be far thinner than other types to the eye – hundreds of times thinner, in fact. They can appear both black or blue depending on their material.

For more on the different kinds of solar panels available to you, or to learn about any of our solar power for homes, companies or other properties, speak to the staff at Intermountain Wind & Solar today.

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