|Solar panels investigated. Which will suit your needs?
Are you thinking about investing in solar panels, but are confused about which type to go for? Then you have come to the right place! When it comes to solar panels for the home, although there are many variations, the two most common types are those made of crystalline silicon and those made using thin-film technology.
Before we can accurately investigate different solar panel solutions, we need to first understand the basic solar power process. The photovoltaic (PV) array is made up of hundreds of solar cells. These solar cells contain materials with semiconducting properties, allowing their electrons to be turned into electrical current when struck by sunlight.
Crystalline Silicon Solar Cells (c-Si)
Silicon solar panels are the most common type found today, with almost 90% of all solar cells on the market being based on some variation of silicon. While there are numerous variations, the two main types of crystalline silicon solar panels are monocrystalline and polycrystalline.
Silicon panels are mostly distinguished by the purity of the silicon. Purity refers to how perfectly aligned the silicon molecules are. The better aligned they are, the more efficient the solar cell will be at converting sunlight into electricity.
It is important to remember that efficiency isn’t necessarily your primary concern. Cost as well as space-efficiency are often the main determining factors for most people.
Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Cells
Monocrystalline Solar Panels, also known as “single crystalline”, hold the title of most efficient in their output of electrical power. This is thanks to it being made from a very pure type of silicon, as well as the unique design. Single crystalline solar cells are made out of “silicon ingots” which are cylindrical in shape to optimise performance.
As a result of its high efficiency, monocrystalline solar panels are also the most space-efficient relative to their generation intensity. Another huge advantage is the fact that they last the longest of all types. Many manufacturers offer warranties of up to 25 years.
The main disadvantage is that the superiority of these solar cells come with a price tag to match. As the most expensive of all solar cells, from an investment standpoint, many consumers choose polycrystalline or thin-film as their preferred choice for home power.
Polycrystalline Solar Cells
Also known as multisilicon cells, this technology was the first cell ever introduced to the industry. Due to the fact that they do not go through the cutting process of monocrystalline, and are rather melted and poured into moulds, polysilicon panels are much more affordable, since hardly any silicon is wasted.
Efficiency is less, operating at a 13-16% efficiency compared to monocrystalline’s efficiency at upwards of 20%. Because of this, polycrystalline is less space-efficient. Another drawback is the lower heat tolerance of these panels, meaning that they do not perform as efficiently in high temperatures.
Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)
Thin-film solar cells are up and coming in the world of renewable energy. They are characterised by the manner in which semi-conducting materials (including silicon in some cases) are layered on top of one another to create a series of thin-films. Efficiencies vary between 7-13%, although much research is being done, hoping to push efficiency up to as high as 16%.
The main advantage of thin-film technology is their cost-effective nature, allowing for mass production. Their low efficiency means that these panels require a lot of space, making them less ideal for residential application.
Thin-film technology uses various photovoltaic substances. The main two we’ll discuss are amorphous silicon and cadmium telluride.
Traditionally this was used for smaller-scale applications such as calculators and travel lights. An innovative technique known as “stacking” allows for several layers of amorphous silicon solar cells to be combined, resulting in efficiency rates of around 6-8%.
Cadmium telluride is one of the few thin-film technologies to become cost-competitive with crystalline models. Efficiency levels range between 9-11%.
Solar Power Inquiries
If you still have any further questions about solar panels for your home, please do not hesitate to contact Soventix here.