Solar panels are still a mystery to some. We here at Coronado Solar want you to be comfortable with the basics of what a solar panel is before making a purchase. In this article, we’ll focus on the differences between the 3 major flavors of panels: Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline, and Thin-Film.
Solar Panels: Monocrystalline
Solar panels made with cells of monocrystalline silicon are easily recognizable by a uniform look that indicates high-purity silicon, such as those in the picture above. Monocrystalline solar cells are made out of ingots of Silicon, cylindrical in shape which are then shaved flat on 4 sides to give the panels their characteristic look.
Monocrystalline cells have some advantages over the other two types. They are the most efficient at converting solar energy into electricity of all the panels we are talking about today, typically 15-20%. They are also the most space-efficient, due to their power efficiency. In addition to all of that, they last the longest. Monocrystalline panels usually come with a 25-year warranty, including those sold by us here at Coronado Solar. Last point about these panels, they perform better at low-light conditions (sunrise/sunset) than polycrystalline or thin-film panels.
While monocrystalline panels are the best and the brightest (pardon the pun), they do come with a few disadvantages. The first, and potentially biggest, disadvantage is that they are by-and-large the most expensive, which may put them out of the range of most homeowner’s price points. Here at Coronado Solar, we have a number of different options to ensure that your solar panel purchase is within reach financially while still providing this type of panel. If you can afford to pay your electric bill every month, you can afford to go solar. Another issue is that if the panel gets partially covered with shade, dirt or debris, the entire circuit can break down. That is assuming that your panels are set up as a string array, which I’ll explain in a later article. We always utilize micro-inverters on our arrays, which negates this issue completely.
Solar Panels: Polycrystalline
The first solar panels based on polycrystalline silicon were introduced to the market in 1981. In these panels, raw silicon is melted and poured into a square mold, which is cooled and cut into perfectly square wafers.
These cells have a distinct advantage over the monocrystalline solar panels. They are much easier to make, waste less silicon, and cost less than the monocrystalline panels.
The efficiency of polycrystalline solar panels is, on average, 13-16%. This is lower than the monocrystalline counterparts due to the lower silicon purity. With that lower efficiency percentage, they are also much less efficient in terms of space. You need many more solar panels to provide the same amount of power that the monocrystalline cells could provide. This becomes an issue if your roof does not have much flat spacing to mount panels. Note that there are monocrystalline solar panels that are outperformed by the newest and best polycrystalline panels. The monocrystalline panels offered by Coronado solar have efficiencies over 19%, for reference. The last disadvantage is subject to your own personal tastes, but with monocrystalline and thin-film solar panels, they are very uniform, usually black, and “very pleasing to the eye”. The polycrystalline, as you see in the picture above, is blue and flecked and catches the light at different angles. I personally think they’re awesome to look at!
Thin-Film Solar Cells
By utilizing a process that deposits a thin layer (or multiple thin layers) of photovoltaic material onto a substrate, thin-film solar cells can be used in a myriad of ways that traditional solar panels can not. Take a look at this really beautiful carport covering in Qatar, completely coated in thin-film solar panels. There are multiple different types of thin-film solar cells, made by utilizing different products. I won’t go into that right now, as I could probably write an entire article about differences between those. Maybe I will! Let me know if you’re interested on our Facebook page. Anyhow, on to the advantages!
There are plenty of reasons why thin-film solar has proliferated in the marketplace. First, from a business standpoint, mass-production is simple which makes them cheaper to manufacture (usually) than crystalline-based solar cells. As evidenced in the picture above, they are good looking and can be flexed for use in many applications, such as the hood or roof of your car.
The big issue for a number of homeowners is efficiency. Even with advances in the technology, thin-film solar panels are generally going to require more space to be effective than most homeowners have. In addition to that, the cabling requirements and support structures increases as the requirement for more space increases. Lastly, and another issue for homeowners, these cells degrade faster (usually) than the crystalline panels and normally come with a shorter warranty.
The wrap up
Solar panels have come a long way in the last 180 years since the photovoltaic effect was discovered. With so much information and new technology emerging, we understand that it’s confusing. We at Coronado Solar hope that this has given you some good information to chew over in your search for your ambassador on your solar journey. We are always here and ready to help!
Coronado Solar is dedicated to being the leader in Florida Solar Panel Installation, knowledge about Solar Energy for you as a consumer, and customer service in the Florida Solar Industry. If you are ready to learn more about powering your home with the Sun, click HERE! One of our team members will contact you shortly after to answer any questions you have.
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