Types Of Solar Panels | Full Guide

solar panels on red roof

Most people think that solar panels only come in rectangular or square shapes which are used in either residential homes or commercial establishments to supply power. This is the most common usage of flat solar panels, however there are many other types of applications for solar cells which produce electricity from sunlight without any moving parts since sunlight directly converted into electricity by these cells after being absorbed by them.

Solar energy is a form of sustainable and clean energy. It is also a key component of our renewable energy resources and will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Many countries now use solar power to supplement or replace their current energy resources. With that in mind, it's important to understand how solar power works and the different types of panels used for solar power generation.


What Is A Solar Panel?

A solar panel is basically an array of photovoltaic cells (PV) that convert sunlight directly into electricity using the photoelectric effect.

Pros

  • It is clean & green – No harmful emissions produced!
  • It produces less pollution than conventional methods
  • There is no noise during operation unlike wind turbines
  • You do not need any permission/licensing to install it

Cons

  • It requires maintenance - Once installed, solar panels require regular cleaning to keep them working optimally.
  • Initial installation cost.
  • Maintenance costs are relatively high if the panel isn't cleaned regularly.

There are several different types of panels used for different purposes. They are:

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

A monocrystal is the raw material that gets turned into something useful. In the case of solar panels, they start off as crystals. These crystals are cut, polished, and then crystallized into solar cells. Solar cells are the parts that do the most work. They collect sunlight and convert it into electricity.

Pros

  • Higher efficiency (30%) than polycrystalline solar cells (20%).
  • More durable. Polycrystalline solar cells have a lifespan of 10 years; monocrystalline solar cells have twice the lifespan.
  • Less expensive to produce per watt, though not as much cheaper as polycrystalline.

Cons

  • Lower output than polycrystalline panels.
  • No warranty. If a defect occurs, you're out of luck.
  • May require special tools to install.
  • Not as aesthetically pleasing. Most manufacturers only make them out of black glass.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

A polycrystalline solar panel is a PV module that uses silicon wafers to create electricity. These solar modules consist of many small crystals of silicon that are connected together. When sunlight hits these silicon wafers, they convert the sun's light directly into electricity using photovoltaic (PV) cells.

Pros

  • The biggest benefit of polycrystalline panels is their high efficiency compared to monocrystalline panels.
  • Monocrystalline panels use a single crystal of silicon while polycrystallin ones use many smaller crystals. Because of this, monocrystalline panels have lower efficiencies than polycrystalline panels.
  • Another advantage of polycrystalline cells is their durability. Compared to mono-cells, polycrystalline cells do not have sharp edges that could cut people if they fall off of a roof.
  • Also, the edges of polycrystalline cell are less likely to short circuit compared to monocrystallines.

Cons

  • The first drawback comes from the cost of manufacturing. Since polycrystalline panels require many different parts, they are expensive to produce. However, we are seeing a trend towards the price of polycrystalline falling down due to increased production. Another issue is that the performance of polycrystalline is affected by temperature.
  • At low temperatures, the performance of polycrystals decreases. In order to keep the performance consistent across the globe, manufacturers may have to adjust the system to account for these fluctuations.

Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell Solar Panels

Passivated emitter and rear cell (PERC) solar panels are a type of PV module that uses backside contact technology. These cells are less expensive than traditional “front-contact” panels, require fewer processing steps, use less material, have improved efficiency, last longer, and produce lower noise levels.

Pros

  • Easier production - PERCs do not require any additional materials or equipment beyond what would normally go into producing standard modules.
  • Lower cost - PERCs are significantly cheaper than their front-contact counterparts.
  • Improved reliability - PERCs have fewer potential failure points, meaning they are much less likely to fail.
  • Easy installation - PERCs are easier to install due to their simplified design.

Cons

  • Limited output capacity - PERCs are only able to harness 15%-20% of the sun's power.
  • Lower conversion efficiency - PERCs convert about 20%-25% of sunlight into electricity, whereas the average front-contact module converts 32%-36%.
  • Noisy - PERCs make a lot more noise than front-contact panels, especially under high temperatures.

Thin-Films

Thin-films refer to thin layers of crystallized materials deposited onto substrates. There are two methods of depositing these types of materials. One method involves using a vapor deposition technique where the substrate is placed inside a chamber filled with either a gas or liquid vapor of the material in question. Then, the vapor condenses onto the substrate and forms a film. Another method involves exposing the substrate to ions of the desired material. In both cases, the substrate is heated until it becomes molten and then cooled down. Once the substrate solidifies, the thin layer is adhered to the substrate. Because of their simplicity, thinner films are frequently employed in electronic devices and solar cells. Many of the features and qualities of a solid state device can be achieved via the use of a thin film because the thickness of these films can often be varied at will. These films can also display excellent electrical properties because the carriers can move freely between the particles.

Pros

  • Thin-film solar cells are cheaper than traditional crystalline silicon cells. According to a 2013 study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), thin film technology costs about half as much as traditional silicon cells.
  • Thin-film solar panels have increased efficiency compared to older technologies. The average cost of energy generated per kilowatt hour was $0.16 in 2008 and $0.09 in 2011. In recent years, this number has decreased to $0.04. This means that the price of electricity generated from thin film solar panels has decreased significantly over time.
  • Thin-film solar panels provide higher yield rates than traditional silicon cells. In 2012, researchers at Stanford University discovered that thin film solar panels could produce 10 percent more power than they were designed for.
  • Thin-film solar panels are less expensive to manufacture than traditional silicon cells. Not only does this mean lower prices for consumers, but it also lowers the amount of material wasted in manufacturing.
  • Thin-film solar cells use fewer raw materials. Traditional silicon cells require almost 12 times the amount of silicon as thin film cells do. Because of this, the demand for mining silicon is decreasing while the demand for thin film cells is increasing.
  • Thin-film cells use less water than traditional silicon cells. Thinning out the thickness of the solar cell decreases the amount of surface area exposed to sunlight. Because of this, thinner cells require less liquid to produce the same amount of electricity.
  • Thin-film solar cells can be produced at low temperatures. Traditional silicon cells require high temperatures to generate electricity. To make matters worse, traditional silicon cells often need to be placed in direct sunlight to work effectively. These factors increase operating costs.
  • Thin-film solar cells last longer than traditional silicon cells. Most traditional silicon cells eventually degrade after just 20 to 30 years, and some actually fail after 5 years. If thin film cells are properly manufactured, then they can last for 50 years.

Cons

  • There is no guarantee that thin film solar cells will become prevalent in the future. Their costs may still be prohibitively high. One major drawback of thin film solar cells is their lack of durability. Even though they may be able to withstand extreme weather conditions for decades, they may not survive long enough to provide any utility to society. Since they don't provide a stable revenue stream, they would likely be used in niche markets, but not mainstream.
  • While they are less expensive to manufacture, thin film solar cells cannot compete with traditional silicon cells on price alone. In fact, it takes more money to put together a thin film panel than a traditional silicon cell. Furthermore, they must still be subsidized by government programs. Because of these facts, thin film solar panels may never reach the market.
  • Thin film panels cannot currently be used in places where it's difficult to maintain shade due to strong sun exposure. Unlike traditional silicon cells, thin film panels only operate efficiently under full sun conditions. They also require specialized equipment to install them.
  • Thin film panels are not as energy efficient as traditional silicon panels. Because they only cover 2% of the Earth's surface, they cannot capture as much sunlight as traditional silicon cells. This limits their total energy output.

Key Takeaways About The Different Types Of Solar Panels

There are many more types of solar panels than the ones we discussed earlier. Below we will briefly go over some of the other panels that are available on the market.

  • Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels convert sunlight directly into electricity using semiconductors. PV solar panels are commonly used in residential applications where they are connected to the electrical grid. However, PV solar panels are not suitable for use in remote locations due to their high cost and lack of infrastructure.
  • Concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) solar panels focus sunlight onto small cells containing semiconductor materials. These cells generate electricity via the photoelectric effect. CPVs are more expensive than PV solar panels, but have higher efficiency ratings.
  • Thin-film solar panels consist of a thin layer of semiconductor material deposited onto a glass substrate. Thin film solar panels are cheaper than both conventional solar panels and concentrated photovoltaics.
  • Hybrid solar panels combine two or more different types of solar panel technology. Hybrid solar panels are more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than either conventional or concentrated photovoltaik panels alone.
  • Monocrystalline solar panels are made from single crystals of silicon wafers. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient than polycrystalline panels.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels are manufactured from many individual silicon wafers. Polycrystalline panels are less expensive than monocrystalline panels.
  • Amorphous solar panels are flexible and lightweight. They are often used in portable devices such as mobile phones and laptops.
  • CdTe solar panels are made from cadmium telluride. Cadmium is toxic and should be avoided.
  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar panels are made from copper, indium, gallium, and selenium. CIGS solar panels are more efficient than traditional silicon solar panels.
  • Silicon solar panels are made from pure silicon. Silicon solar panels are inexpensive and highly efficient.
  • Gallium arsenide solar panels are made from gallium arsenide. Gallium is toxic and should also be avoided.
  • Perovskite solar panels are made from lead-halide perovskites. Lead is toxic and should be kept away from children.
  • Semiconductor solar panels are made from any number of semiconductor materials including silicon, germanium, gallium, cadmium, indium, tin, zinc, titanium, antimony, bismuth, arsenic, phosphorous, selenium, tellurium, and others.
  • Thermocellular solar panels are made from molten salt. Molten salt is corrosive and should be avoided.

What Are Solar Panels Made Out Of?

Solar panels are made of silicon and are not toxic. They make up a solar panel array. The silicon is used as a semiconductor material. The panels are encased in a glass or polymer cladding to protect them from the elements and to help them transmit light. The panels are usually made of a flexible material to allow them to follow the path of the sun.

There are different types of photovoltaic cells, but the most common are crystalline silicon cells. Crystalline silicon cells are made of silicon, which is a semiconducting material. Silicon is made up of atoms that are bonded together in a specific structure. Photovoltaic cells are made of silicon, which is what enables them to collect light and generate electricity. The best photovoltaic cells are made of silicon that has been deposited on a substrate, which is most often made of silicon or glass. Solar panels can be made of different materials. Monocrystalline cells are made of a single crystal, and polycrystalline cells are made of multiple crystals.

What Type Of Panel Is Best For Your Installation?

There are many different types of solar panels, all of them providing their own unique pros and cons. Depending on your home's location and specific installation requirements, there is likely a best option for you!

Solar power systems tend to break down into two categories, grid-tied systems and off-grid systems. Grid-tied systems connect back to the local utility company, while off-grid systems do not. Many people choose to install both a grid-tie system and an off-grid system, particularly if they live in an area where the cost of electricity is high relative to the cost of sunlight. Other factors affecting decision making could include the type of equipment you want to use, how much money you have available, and whether your building is located near a major road.

Grid-Tie Systems

A grid-tied system is connected to the electrical grid and provides power to your home when the sun isn't shining. These systems require a battery backup in case the batteries fail; otherwise, you'll lose power during cloudy days. A typical grid-tied system consists of a solar panel, inverter, battery bank, charge controller, wiring harness, junction box, mounting hardware, and sometimes even a water filtration system.

One of the biggest advantages of a grid-tied system over an off-grid system is its reliability. If something goes wrong with your solar system, you still get power from the electric grid in most cases. However, if your solar technology fails completely, you won't have access to power at any point in time. On the downside, grid-tied solar systems don't provide you with complete control over your energy usage. You can only draw electricity from the grid whenever it's available. Also, a solar PV system may not work well in cold climates. In these instances, you could suffer damage to your system due to the extreme weather conditions.

Off-Grid Systems

An off-grid system does not connect to the electrical grid. Instead, you must generate your own energy supply using renewable technologies such as solar cells. Off-grid systems are cheaper than grid-tied systems, and they allow you to be independent of the electrical grid. If your house loses power, you don't need to wait for the utility company to restore service.

The biggest advantage of an off-grid solar system is the amount of control you have over your energy usage. Since you're generating your own power, you can decide what times you'd like to run appliances or turn lights on/off. You also have the flexibility to change your schedule around town, since you're no longer reliant on the utility company. While this kind of system requires some maintenance and upkeep, it's generally less expensive than a grid-tied solar PV system.

Choosing Which System To Install

If you plan to keep your system going for a long period of time, go with an off-grid system. The grid-tied system tends to last shorter due to its reliance on batteries. Be sure to check out our guide on choosing a solar panel for more information.

Also consider your lifestyle. Do you spend a lot of time outside? Do you travel frequently? Are you comfortable with having your own power supply? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then an off-grid system might be right for you.

If you want to take full advantage of your solar power system, make sure you use the correct technology. Our experts can help you determine which solar technology works best for your individual situation.

Cost categories of panels

  • Highest Cost: Monocrystalline Panels.
  • Mid-cost: Polycrystalline Panels.
  • Lowest Cost: Thin Film Panels.

Subscribe

Stay updated with our newsletter


Solar Panel Efficiency

There are a lot of different steps you can take to make your solar unit more efficient. First, reduce the amount of shading by adding shade cloth or other covers. Next, make sure the discharge has enough space between the cells and prevent settling that could lower efficiency. Finally, make sure all objects are grounded properly and installed at least 5 feet away from any exposed active material to eliminate rapid discharges.

The amount of power produced by solar panels varies by location, time of day, weather conditions, orientation of panel, and many other factors.

Factors To Consider When Selecting A Panel Type

Since solar panels have been around for many years now, it's only natural that newer models keep popping out. But what factors should you consider when choosing a type of panel? These are just some of the things you need to take into account:

  • Will the size of the panels fit your budget?
  • What kind of mounting hardware do you want to use?
  • What kind will produce enough electricity?
  • How long will they last?
  • Do you have any specific installation requirements?

There are several different types of solar panel designs, each designed for different applications. Here are some examples:

  • Grid Panels - Used for residential installations, these panels are connected directly to the utility grid. They're suitable for small homes and buildings where residents don't require much electrical power.
  • Off-Grid Panels - Similar to grid panels, off-grid panels are wired to the utility grid. However, they're not attached directly to it, so in case of a blackout, these panels won't lose power.
  • Multi-Generator Panels - These systems combine two or three generators to provide more reliable energy. Often referred to as microgrids, multi-generator systems can be installed at commercial sites and industrial facilities.
  • Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) Panels - CPVs are the newest generation of photovoltaics, and were first developed for space exploration. Unlike traditional panels, they focus sunlight using lenses and mirrors to increase efficiency.

Are Solar Panels Shatterproof?

In a world where we have seen advancements in technology, solar panels have also been given many improvements. One of these technological advances is the ability for solar panels to withstand extreme temperatures. There is no doubt that solar panel technology is moving forward with great leaps and bounds and is becoming more and more efficient. But what about its durability? Well, the answer to that question is yes, solar panels are safe enough to use in any environment if they are properly installed and maintained. Even though the panels may appear fragile at first glance, their construction makes them quite sturdy and durable.

There are several ways in which solar panels are built that make them extremely sturdy. First, the materials that go into making solar panels are carefully selected so that the panel does not break down easily under the pressure of sudden temperature changes. These materials include tempered glass, stainless steel, resin backing, and aluminum frames. In addition, solar modules are often placed inside boxes to keep them protected from damaging elements like wind and rain. In fact, some companies even use air conditioning units to prevent solar panels from getting damaged due to high temperatures.

But, just like humans, solar panels cannot take damage and are subject to certain weaknesses. These weaknesses include things like moisture, electrical shocks, vandalism, and falling objects. However, just like humans, they can withstand minor injuries. A few scratches or dents do not mean the end of a solar panel's life. Most solar companies offer warranties on their products, so customers need only seek out a company that offers a warranty. If the solar panel breaks down after a year, then a customer might be able to get it repaired. After all, these are still a relatively new product. So, solar panels should last well past their warranty period.

However, if someone were to drop a heavy object onto a solar panel, then the damage could be much more significant than a simple scratch on the surface. When dealing with heavier items, solar manufacturers recommend using anti-vandal measures to protect the solar panels. To begin with, most solar panels have guards over the top and sides. Second, the backside of the solar panel has a metal frame that helps keep it from being dropped. Third, the panels themselves are coated in either paint or plastic to help them resist damages caused by water, snow, or ice. And finally, some solar panels are designed specifically to stop people from tampering with the panels.

Just like anything mechanical, solar panels can be damaged by physical abuse. This includes everything from dropping a heavy object on them or hitting them with blunt instruments. Since the panels contain metals, they can crack or bend easily depending on how hard they are hit. Sometimes, solar panels are simply left open to the elements. As long as the panels aren't directly exposed to the rain or direct sunlight, they can last a lifetime without suffering any major issues.

The bottom line is that solar panels can survive a lot and be used safely and reliably in any environment. The best way to ensure safety is to follow installation instructions provided by a manufacturer. Also, installing solar panels in locations that are sheltered and covered would allow them to be safe and reliable for years to come.

Choosing A Solar Inverter Type

Whenever you plan on getting a solar power system, you will have to choose which type of inverter you will use.

What Is An Inverter?

An inverter converts direct current (dc) electricity generated by solar panels into alternating current (ac), which is then usable by the electrical grid. There are three types of inverters: string inverters, microinverters, and power optimizers. String inverters are typically used in larger systems where a single solar panel feeds multiple loads. Microinverters are designed to be attached to each individual module and convert ac current directly from the modules. As a result, they have a higher conversion efficiency than string inverters, making them perfect for small setups. Finally, power optimizers combine several inverters together and connect them back-to-back with high-power dc links. These setups allow for large amounts of electricity to flow throughout the system.

String Inverters

String inverters are great for systems with many modules connected to a central point. When solar panels work at their maximum capacity, they generate enough voltage to run lights, fans, a water pump, and even a few appliances. If you want to use more devices, a string inverter will do the job. The disadvantage of string inverters is that they're bulky and not ideal for smaller tasks.

Microinverters

Microinverters fit perfectly onto each solar panel and convert the direct current electricity generated by the solar cells into ac current. Because they only work with a specific type of panel, they don't work well with older models. However, newer panels generate a much stronger output of dc and don't require any additional circuitry to turn it into ac current. This means that microinverters can provide a continuous supply of electricity without needing to make adjustments to the input.

Power Optimizers

Power optimizers take multiple strings of inverters and connect them back-and-forth with high-voltage dc cables. If you need to connect several solar panels together, a power optimizer will do the job. By combining several inverters into one unit, you can create more powerful connections between solar panels in order to increase the amount of electricity produced.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

A solar cell consists of two layers: a semiconductor and a metal electrode layer. When light hits the semiconductor material, electrons move freely between the atoms in the semiconducting material until they reach the opposite electrode. As electrons flow away from the negative electrode, positive charges build up on the surface of the solar cell. Once these positive charges accumulate enough to break the electrical connection between the electrodes, current begins to flow.

The first step in making electricity is converting light into energy. This conversion happens inside the solar cell, where photons from sunlight create electron-hole pairs in the semiconductor. An electric field is then applied across the semiconductor, causing the electrons to drift toward the negative electrode and the holes to drift toward the positive electrode.

How long does a solar panel last?

As with anything else, solar panels degrade over time due to constant exposure to sunlight and temperature fluctuations. Some models last 15 years or more while others may fail after just a few months. To determine if a solar panel is good for further use, simply turn off the system and check the output. If the output is low, the panels need to be replaced. Overheating can cause cracks in the cells, so make sure that the system isn't getting hot.

What should I know before buying a solar panel?

If you live in a region that gets plenty of sunshine throughout the year, you might be able to get away with purchasing a smaller solar array. But if your area gets little to no sun, a larger solar panel will give you greater potential earnings from electricity. You'll also want to consider how big of a project you have planned. Are you going to install one small solar panel to charge your phone or several solar panels to run your entire house?




Main Image provided by: depositphotos.com


Conclusion

One advantage of solar panels is their versatility; they can be placed almost anywhere there is access to sunlight. Because they require no wiring or maintenance, panels can be installed relatively easily compared to other forms of renewable energy generation. Additionally, these panels are very well suited to locations where electrical power is already available, such as rooftops or open fields. Because the production of electricity does not rely on wind or water, these panels provide a constant supply of free energy.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.