The Three Main Types of Solar Panels

Most solar panels fall into one of three categories: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. Their names reflect the different types of solar cells that make them up. Monocrystalline solar panels, for example, are manufactured using monocrystalline silicon solar cells. Each type of solar cell has its own advantages and disadvantages, and understanding them will help you better decide which solar panel is right for you.

Monocrystalline

solar panels on a residential roof

Monocrystalline solar panels are developed using the Czochralski method. This is where a ‘seed’ of silicon crystal is placed into a molten vat of pure silicon, forming an ingot (or a single silicon crystal). This ingot is then divided into wafers which are then used for solar modules. As a result of this pure silicon wafer, monocrystalline panels have a sleek design and high level of efficiency. These features are what make them the most popular solar panels on the market, but also one of the most expensive.

Polycrystalline

If you’re looking to switch to solar power on a budget, polycrystalline panels are your best option. Like monocrystalline panels, they are made of silicon solar cells, but they differ in one crucial way: their silicon crystals. During the manufacturing process, as Polycrystalline panels are cooled, they form multiple crystals rather than a single ingot. As such, the panels contain silicon fragments which, once hit by light, give them a bluish hue.

Thin Film

Finally, there are thin film solar panels. You can manufacture thin film panels by depositing a photovoltaic substance onto a solid surface. You can use a wide variety of photovoltaic substances (e.g., copper indium gallium selenide, cadmium telluride, Amorphous silicon) that will all create a different type of thin film solar panel. Due to their manufacturing process, thin film panels are roughly 350 times thinner than monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels.

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