Monocrystalline – Known as a more expensive option but produces more electricity.
Monocrystalline is black cells cut from a single silicon crystal. These solar panels can produce an energy-producing efficiency up to and slightly greater than 20% in capturing photons. They are also the most expensive option for solar panels. The higher cost is because the manufacturing process is more extensive with solar cells being made with silicon crystals.
Uses- This option of Solar panels might be best used with needing a higher wattage produced from limited sunlight or limited space. An example is a single-family home that chooses to run air conditioning or electrical heating 24 hours a day might require this option of panels.
Polycrystalline – Known as a similar look to monocrystalline but more affordable
Polycrystalline are fragments of silicon crystals that are melted together before being molded into wafers. These solar panels produce an energy production efficiency of roughly 15-17%. Because the cells are produced from fragments the manufacturing process is much simpler and cost-effective. For most people, the decision from choosing Polycrystalline vs. Monocrystalline is cost and space.
Uses- Because Polycrystalline is a cheaper option if you are on a budget this might be for you. Keep in mind that it will also produce less energy. Two instances make sense. First, with the example of a single-family home, you don’t require as much energy to run the air conditioner or heating unit and are more focused on just powering the appliances. Or second, you have a large roof space and can put up more panels at a cheaper price point to produce the same amount of energy. This option might be for you.
Thin-film panels- Known for their ability to flex and contour, but less effective.
Thin-film panels come from various types of material. These solar panels have an energy-making efficiency of around 11%. First the most common is the (CdTe) cadmium telluride which is made by layering this material between transparent layers. The second is (a-Si) amorphous silicon made from non-crystalline in a silicon composition. Third is (CIGS) copper indium gallium selenide, which is placed between a transparent or conduction layer.
Uses- Thin-film solar panels are the least effective way to produce photovoltaic energy. But they do have special benefits that make them necessary in certain circumstances. First, the panels are thin and light which makes installation quicker, less labor intensive, and more affordable. Second, they come in handy when roofs can’t hold heavy solar panels, such as commercial warehouses or plastic/thin metal roofs. Third, they are portable and flexible. Which makes it easy to move and contour to non-flat roofs. This is often seen in RVs and boats.
These are the 3 most common solar panels today. We will discuss PERC and Bifacial panels in a future post.