Are you considering making the switch to solar energy? Great choice! Not only is it environmentally friendly, but it can also save you a significant amount of money on your energy bills. But with so many different types of solar panels on the market, it can be overwhelming to try to choose the best option for your home or business. That’s where we come in!
In this blog post, we’ll break down the different types of solar panels and help you understand the pros and cons of each one. By the end, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about which solar panels are right for you.
4 Main Types of Solar Panels
Solar energy is a clean, renewable energy source that is becoming increasingly popular as a way to reduce energy costs and reduce our reliance on non-renewable energy sources. There are several types of solar panels available, each with its own unique features and benefits.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
These panels are also known as single-crystal panels. They are made from one pure silicon crystal and then cut into multiple wafers. They are easy to identify by their dark, black color because they are pure silicon. Monocrystalline panels are also the most space-efficient and long-lasting of all four types of solar panels.
This comes at a price — it takes a lot of silicon to make one monocrystalline cell. Sometimes, it can be over 50%. This leads to a high price.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
These are made from several different silicon crystals, as the name suggests. The silicon fragments can be melted and then poured into a square mold. Polycrystalline cells are thus more affordable because there is very little wastage and they have a square shape.
They are also less efficient in terms of space and energy conversion, as their silicon purity and construction are lower than monocrystalline panels. They are also less efficient in high temperatures due to their lower heat tolerance.
Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (Perc) Panels
PERC panels are a modification of the monocrystalline cell. This new technology includes a passivation layer on the cell’s rear surface that improves efficiency in many ways.
- It reflects sunlight into the cell, increasing the solar radiation absorbed.
- It decreases the natural tendency for electrons to recombine, and it inhibits electron flow in the system.
- This allows for greater wavelengths to be reflected. Silicon wafers can’t absorb light waves above 1,180nm and they simply pass through. This causes the cells’ metal back sheets to heat up and reduce their efficiency. These higher wavelengths are reflected by the passivation layer, which stops them from heating the back sheet.
PERC panels are ideal for small spaces because they allow for greater solar energy collection and a smaller footprint. Although they are slightly more costly than traditional panels due to the additional materials required, they can still be manufactured using the same equipment and can have a lower average cost per watt due to their efficiency.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
Thin-film panels have very thin layers that can be easily bent. The panels are lighter and more straightforward to install than traditional frames. Thin-film panels are lighter than crystalline silicon panels, which come in standard sizes of 60, 72, and 96 cells, but can be customized to meet specific needs. They are however less efficient than traditional silicon solar panels.
Types of Solar Panels by Power Capacity
Monocrystalline cells are the most powerful due to their single-crystal design that permits a greater output rating in a smaller package. Monocrystalline panels can produce up to 300w power.
Polycrystalline panels have been made possible by recent advances in solar technology. A 60-cell standard polycrystalline panel can now produce between 240 and 300w. Monocrystalline panels are still better than polycrystalline panels in terms of power per cell.
Thin-film panels are not available in standard sizes so there is no standard measurement of power. The capacity of each panel will vary based on its size. A thin-film panel with the same physical footprint will produce more power than conventional crystalline panels.
Types of Solar Panels by Price
Monocrystalline panels, or modules, are expensive because of their inefficient manufacturing process that produces only 50% yield per silicon crystal.
Polycrystalline modules are less expensive because they use the monocrystalline crystal fragments left over from monocrystalline production. This results in lower manufacturing costs and simpler manufacturing processes.
CIGS is the most costly thin-film panel, followed by CdTe, amorphous silicon, and CdTe. Thin-film modules are less expensive to acquire and easier to install due to their lightweight and flexibility. This also lowers labor costs.
The total cost of residential systems has dropped by more than 65% in the past decade. However, the soft cost of a system has increased from 58% in 2014 to 65% in 2020.
You can find more information on soft costs by reading our article about the soft cost in the solar industry and what is being done to decrease them.
|Panel (Module) type||Average Cost per Watt|
|Monocrystalline||$1 – $1.50|
|Polycrystalline||$0.70 – $1|
|Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)||$0.60 – $0.70|
|Cadmium telluride (CdTe)||$0.50 – $0.60|
|Amorphous silicon||$0.43 – $0.50|
These figures do not include labor and solar installation costs. The cost of labor and overhead costs can add up to between $2.50 and $3.50 per Watt.
Other Factors to Consider
A solar panel’s ability to produce energy can be affected by its temperature. The temperature coefficient is used to measure the panel’s power output about temperature changes. It is calculated as a percentage of its power output per 1 degree Celsius (77°F) increase over 25d°C.
The temperature coefficients of monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels range from -0.3% to -0.5 %/°C, while panels made of thin film are closer to –0.2 %/°C. Thin-film panels are a great option in hotter areas or for places that receive more sunlight throughout the year.
2012’s International Building Code requires that solar panels match the fire rating of any roof on which they are placed. This is done to prevent the spreading of flames during a fire.
Solar panels are now classified the same as roofs.
1. Class A
- Effective against severe fire test exposure
- Flame spread should not exceed 6′
- Required for wildland-urban interfaces or areas at high wildfire severity and risk
2. Class B
- Effective against moderate fire test exposure
- Flame spread should not exceed 8 ft
3. Class C
- Effective against light fire test exposure
- Flame spread should not exceed 13 feet
Also, solar panels can be tested for hail impact.
The UL 1703 and UL61703 standards address hailstorms by dropping 2-inch solid-steel spheres on the solar panels at a height of 51 inches and firing 1-inch ice balls onto PV panels using a pneumatic cannon. This simulates hail impacts.
Crystal panels are stronger and can withstand hail at speeds up to 50 mph. Thin-film solar panels, on the other hand, have a lower rating because they are thin and flexible.
Although there is no formal rating for severe weather, the Department of Energy has recently updated its recommended design specifications to protect solar panels from severe weather.
These are the new recommendations:
- Modules that have the highest ASTM E1830-15 rating in snow loading and wind loading, both front, and back.
- Based on DIN 65151 standard, fasteners lock with true capability.
- Use of through-bolting modules that have locking fasteners rather than clamping fasteners.
- For better rigidity and support against twisting, 3-frame rail systems are recommended.
- Over C-channels with open shapes, tubular frames are better than those made of steel.
- To slow down the wind force, install perimeter fencing around PV systems.
LID (Light-Induced Decay)
LID is a common performance loss in crystalline panels that occurs within the first few hours of exposure to sunlight. This occurs when sunlight reacts to oxygen traces from manufacturing, which causes damage to the silicon lattice structure.
LID loss can be directly related to manufacturing quality. It can range between 1-3%.
In conclusion, there are several types of solar panels available on the market, each with its own unique features and benefits. It can be overwhelming to try and determine which type is the right one for your home or business. That’s where a professional solar installer comes in. They have the knowledge and expertise to assess your energy needs and recommend the best type of solar panel for your specific situation. Don’t take a chance on choosing the wrong solar panel – trust the professionals at ESD Solar to guide you in the right direction.
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