Polycristalline vs. Thin Film Solar Panels

So, you have had enough of load shedding and decided to look at alternative means of energy. You are not alone. On average, load shedding has taken place at least once every two days this year. As a result, it is no surprise that solar energy has experienced a massive boom since 2007.


Not only have several large scale solar power farms been erected, but residential solar power systems have also become hugely popular.


A question that regularly pops up when it comes to residential installations is whether to go with polycrystalline- or thin film solar panels. Let’s have a look at their characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.


Polycrystalline solar panels

Polycrystalline silicon is a very pure form of silicon. It is produced through a process known as the Siemens process.


The purity of silicon comes down to the alignment of the molecules. The more aligned they are, the purer it is and the better it will convert sunlight into energy.


The process used to enhance the purity of silicon is expensive and therefore solar panels made from polycrystalline solar panels are more expensive than thin film solar panels, though not as expensive as monocrystalline ones.




  • Compared to monocrystalline silicon solar cells the process to produce polycrystalline solar cells are simpler and cheaper, which means the solar panels are cheaper.
  • There is less wastage during the production process.
  • You need less surface area for the installation of solar panels as its purity enhances its efficiency.



  • They are less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels.
  • You need to make sure that there is nothing that will block sunrays as 20% shade across the panels could result in a 50% drop in efficiency.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels are not as heat resistant as monocrystalline solar panels. This means that in high temperatures they are less effective than monocrystalline and tend to have a shorter life span.


Thin film solar cells

These solar cells are produced by depositing one or several thin layers of photovoltaic material on top of each other over a substrate, like glass. Even though thin film is not as efficient as polycrystalline cells, the production process is less costly.



  • Mass production is simple and cost efficient. This means that solar panels are cheaper.
  • They are flexible and thus more versatile
  • They are more resistant to heat and shade



  • Thin film solar panels are cheaper, but because they are less efficient you need more of them and therefore you need more installation space.
  • Installation costs are also higher as you require more equipment such as support structures and cables.
  • They tend to have a shorter life span.



The characteristics of two types of solar panels makes each ideal for certain types of installations. In areas where space is not an issue, like farms and commercial properties, thin film solar panels will be ideal. They are cheap, versatile and on farmland and commercial property, space is generally not an issue.
In residential areas, where space is an issue, polycrystalline solar panels will be perfect. They don’t need as much space as they are more efficient.

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