With the surge in renewable energy, solar has emerged as a sustainable and eco-friendly solution for businesses and households. It has caused significant growth in the solar industry and solar panel types. However, with the availability of so many options, it can become overwhelming to find the appropriate one that fits your needs.
Therefore, you need to get a basic idea about the types of solar panels available in the market before making any decision.
In this post, we will delve into the distinctions between four main types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, thin-film, and bifacial. We will explore them based on their features, efficiency levels, costs, and application. So you can make the right choice on your next purchase.
Exploring different types of solar panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are one of the most popular residential solar panel installation choices. As the name suggests, their manufacturing involves a single silicon crystal called an ingot. The cylindrical silicon ingots go through the process of being sliced into thin wafers and later used in solar modules.
Similar to Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline solar panels use silicon solar cells. However, the manufacturing process involves the melting and pouring of many silicon crystals to form square-shaped panels. It adds a distinctive blue colour and affordability to the panels.
Unlike crystalline panels, these solar modules involve the use of photovoltaic substances such as cadmium telluride (CdTe), amorphous silicon(a-si), and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). These substances are deposited in a thin layer over a solid surface like glass, plastic or metal, resulting in lightweight and thin film solar panels.
Bi-facial solar panels
Bifacial solar panels follow a type of monocrystalline technology that allows modules to capture light from the underside as well. It enables you to generate power using the front and back sides of the module.
Therefore, these types of solar panels are installed on tilt frames with reflective roof sheeting that enables some sunlight to bounce back towards the panel’s bottom, leading to increased generated energy.
Solar Panel types by unique features
- Higher efficiency: The single silicon crystal use enables more space for electrons to move around, leading to greater power generation.
- Durability: They offer longer life spans than polycrystalline panels, making them more reliable.
- Black Appearance: Using silicon ingots in the manufacturing process gives them a unique and dark black look.
- Space efficient: It is perfect if you want more power with less roof area.
- Affordable: They cost less than monocrystalline panels, making them perfect if you are on a budget.
- Attractive appearance: The multiple silicon fragments used in the production give the panels a distinctive blue colour.
- Flexible and Versatile: It makes installing and integrating with various surfaces easier for you.
- Low manufacturing cost: Cost-effective production leads to low product cost.
- High performance in low light conditions: This makes them suitable for cloudy conditions.
- Highly Efficient: They are ideal for capturing sunlight to numerous angles as long as panels have enough space to get reflected light.
- Space Utilisation: It produces 30% more power using the same space.
Solar panel types by efficiency level
When it comes to efficiency, crystalline panels show better performance.
- Monocrystalline panels deliver around 20% efficiency.
- Polycrystalline panels offer between 15% to 17% efficiency.
- Bi-facial panels surpass single-facing monocrystalline panel energy conversion rate, offering you around 22% to 23% efficiency.
Meanwhile, thin-film solar modules offer 2%-3% less efficiency than crystalline panels. However, it depends on the type of materials used in the production. In general:
- CIGS modules deliver around 13% to 15% efficiency range.
- CdTe has an efficiency of 9% to 11%.
- Amorphous silicon (a-Si) panels offer the lowest efficiency, ranging between 6% to 8%.
Solar panel types by costs
Most expensive: Bi-Facial Solar Panels
Bi-facial solar panels use more products in manufacturing than Monocrystalline solar panels, making them most expensive. For instance, their cost per watt is AUD 1.80, meaning you need to pay slightly more than monocrystalline ones.
Expensive: Monocrystalline Panels
Monocrystalline Panels are the second most expensive because of their intensive manufacturing process and energy-efficient capabilities. However, with the improvements in manufacturing and technology advancements, monocrystalline panels cost just a bit more than polycrystalline modules.
Mid Cost: Polycrystalline
Polycrystalline panels use silicon crystal fragments left after monocrystalline manufacturing, making their production simple and cost-friendly.
Least Expensive: Thin Film
Thin film solar panels cost less than the other three options due to their easy installation and less equipment requirement. Among them, CIGS costs more, followed by CdTe and a-Si.
Solar Panel types by application
Monocrystalline is the best type of solar panel for residential solar installation. Although you have to pay a bit more initially, you can enjoy high efficiency with durability and a subtle appearance.
However, if you are on a budget and have plenty of space, you can opt for Polycrystalline panels.
On the contrary, bifacial panels are ideal for large-scale utility applications due to their suitability with reflective surfaces or flat roofs where the panel receives more than one-meter clearance.
When it comes to thin film panels, they work best for locations where you can not bear labour-intensive and heavy installations of crystalline panels. It includes commercial buildings with thin roofs or tight spaces, areas requiring flexible installation or compact places like recreational vehicles.
When choosing a solar panel, it’s important that you first consider your requirements, budget, space availability, and efficiency. We hope the points we discussed help you to choose the right solar panel type.