What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?

Finding the solar panel system that best suits your roof is not an easy quest. Efficiency, cost, and power capacity might vary according to the type of solar panel, so general knowledge about the different kinds of solar panels and their characteristics may come in handy when making a decision.

In this article, we’ll discuss the properties of the main types of solar panels, namely:

  • Monocrystalline Solar Panels
  • Polycrystalline Solar Panels
  • Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) Panels
  • Thin-Film Solar Panels

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels refer to the silicon from which the panel is made. It’s a single silicon crystal cut into so-called thin ‘silicon wafers’ and is identifiable by a dark black color.

These are the most expensive solar panels because of the energy-intensive manufacturing process and the large amount of waste material that results from producing them. The main advantage of the monocrystalline panels is their high efficiency due to the silicon crystals and their efficient arrangement into the panel’s frame.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are usually made with waste material from the monocrystalline panel production process. Several silicon fragments are melted to make polycrystalline cells and assembled into polycrystalline panels.

Because of the lower purity and the arrangement of the crystals, this type of panel is less efficient than the monocrystalline panel. It’s also cheaper, as the manufacturing process is more straightforward. Polycrystalline panels are easily identifiable by their deep blue color.

Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) Panels

A PERC panel is a variation of the monocrystalline solar panels, to which a layer of insulation was added to enhance the panel’s ability to generate electricity by:

  • Reflecting long wavelengths away from the panel’s metal frame, thus avoiding overheating of the monocrystalline cells and consequential lower energy output.
  • Preventing electrons from recombining and inhibiting the flow into the electric system.
  • Reflecting light back into the cell, thus increasing the quantity of sunlight absorbed by the whole panel.

The cost of the passivated emitter and rear cell panels is slightly higher than the monocrystalline solar panels because of their added passivating layer. However, the advantage is a 5% increase in efficiency, which lowers the average cost per watt than traditional panels.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

As the name suggests, thin-film panels are a type of solar panel made of several layers of thin film from different materials, resulting in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Some of these panels are even flexible.

The 3 most common thin-film solar panels include the following:

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)

Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar panels are currently the cheapest option and the one with the lowest carbon footprint. On the other hand, cadmium is toxic and may represent a problem when the time comes to dispose of the panels. The lifespan of this type of panel is about 30 years.

Amorphous Silicon (a-Si)

The silicon arranged in amorphous silicon panels (a-Si) is shapeless, unlike pure silicon panels. Because of the low power output, this type of solar panel is often found in devices that do not require large amounts of energy to function, like pocket calculators.

Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS)

Copper indium gallium selenide panels (CIGS) have a plastic or glass base, with the mentioned materials deposited on top. While their efficiency is the highest among thin-film panels, they cannot compete with crystalline silicon panels.

What Type of Solar Panel is the Most Efficient?

Crystalline solar panels are the most efficient, with monocrystalline panels having an efficiency rating of 20% and polycrystalline panels ranging between 15% and 17%.

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels with PERC are 5% more efficient than those without a passivation layer.

Thin-film panels tend to have a lower efficiency:

  • CIGS panels have an efficiency between 13% and 15%
  • CdTe panels between 9% and 11%
  • A-Si panels are the lowest, with 6-8%

How Much Do Different Types of Solar Panels Cost?

In terms of hardware costs, monocrystalline silicon solar cells are the most expensive, with most monocrystalline panels having a cost per watt of $1 – $1.50. The cost per watt for polycrystalline solar cells is $0.70 – $1. PERC adds $0.32-$0.65 of cost per watt

Thin-film solar cells are cheaper than crystalline panels with the following cost per watt:

  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS): $0.60 – $0.70
  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe): $0.50 – $0.60
  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si): $0.43 – $0.50

The installation of solar panels can vary in cost based on the types of solar panels. For example, a thin-film solar panel is lighter than a polycrystalline solar panel and will require less labor to install them.

Let Us Help You Find a Trusted Solar Panel Provider in Your Area!

There are several factors to consider when installing solar panels: cost, efficiency, power capacity, and ease of installation. The solar industry is putting advanced solar panel technology on the market.

Browse our website today to find the best solar companies in your area and get an estimate on your solar installation! We look forward to helping you become the owner of your own home electricity!

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