Major Types of Solar Panels

Solar panel installations have grown explosively all over the world in the last ten years.

The best part is their costs have dramatically plummeted by 99% over the last four decades, so there’s no better time than now to take advantage of clean solar energy for your home or business to lower the electricity bill.

In this article, you’ll do a deep dive into the three main options for solar panels available today. These are:

  •  Monocrystalline: Constructed from a single silicon crystal that’s been sliced into wafers, monocrystalline solar panels contain rows and columns of these wafers. Since the silicone crystal (also called an ingot) is cylindrical, slicing them into wafers causes them to have rounded edges.
  • Polycrystalline: Polycrystalline (also referred to as multi-crystalline) solar panels have solar cells containing multiple crystalline fragments of silicon. The fragments may be the left-over pieces from monocrystalline solar production. They are arranged in an irregular manner. Then they’re melted together and formed into solid blocks before being cut into wafers. Each wafer is more rectangular than its monocrystalline counterparts.
  • Thin film: Called second-generation solar cells, thin-film solar panels can be made of a variety of materials including: Amorphous silicon (no crystal lattice), Gallium arsenide, Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), Cadmium telluride (CdTe).

Each wafer of a thin-film cell is super-skinny compared to the other types, making it flexible. They may be applied by an adhesive directly to a surface (like your roof, boat, or RV), or set up into durable frames (rack) much like the other common types of solar panels.

Each individual solar panel (also called a module) in the array consists of a group of solar cells packaged together in a metal frame. There are typically 60, 72 or 96 solar cells in a single solar panel.

Here’s a summary table of the three most common solar panel types.

Solar Panel Type, Material Efficiency & Cost Appearance:

Monocrystalline Pure, single silicon crystal High (18% or slightly higher) Highest Black or dark blue cells with rounded corners

Polycrystalline Silicon fragments Medium (15-17%) High Blue rectangular cells

Thin-Film Various Low (11%, but may attain 15%) Lowest Black or blue uniform surface

Key takeaways on types of solar panels

Solar panel installations have grown in popularity and efficiency while decreasing in price due to the green, clean energy revolution. Now is a perfect time to invest in a solar panel system.

The most common types of solar panels for home use are composed of monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin-film solar cells. They vary in efficiency and cost. Monocrystalline panels are the most expensive and most efficient. The least expensive, but typically least efficient, are thin-film solar panels.

Polycrystalline solar cells usually have moderate efficiencies and reasonable costs.


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