Different Types of Solar Panels

Types of SOlar Panel

Solar panels are panels that are typically placed on a roof to receive sunlight. The panels generate this sunlight into Direct Current electricity (DC electricity).

The 3 different Solar Panel types you’ll hear of when shopping around are Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Thin Film.

Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline are the two most common types of solar panels and are both highly reliable and efficient. There are debates amongst the industry claiming that monocrystalline panels are better than Polycrystalline panels and vice versa however, this depends on the brand and model of the panels.

Thin Film has a reputation of being the ‘worst’ of the solar panel technologies due to its lower power efficiency. However, this only means they require more roof space for the same amount of power that Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline options would need.

Brands and prices will vary for each solar panel option, so it’s best to discuss with an installer what type may be best suited to your roof and then review brands online as discussed previously.

Monocrystalline

  • Most developed of the three technologies
  • 14-17% efficiency
  • More expense though less common panels can reach 20% efficiency
  • Occupy the least space for the same amount of power than other technologies
  • Dark black colour
  • Usually the most expensive of the three choices
  • Higher heat tolerance than Polycrystalline
  • They are very susceptible to shading effects and quickly lose output with even small amounts of shading

This is the oldest and most developed of the three technologies. Monocrystalline panels are created from a single continuous crystal structure.

A Monocrystalline panel can be identified from the solar cells which all appear as a single flat colour.

Construction

They are made through the Czochralski method where a silicon crystal ‘seed’ is placed in a vat of molten silicon. The seed is then slowly drawn up with the molten silicon forming a solid crystal structure around the seed. The rod of solid crystal silicon that is formed is then finely sliced and shaped into the solar cells you see making up solar panels.

Polycrystalline

  • 13-17% efficiency
  • Perform slightly better than Monocrystalline in low light
  • Light or dark blue colour
  • Equally susceptible to shading as Monocrystalline due to the way the cells are connected
  • Occupy marginally more space than Monocrystalline for the same power output

Polycrystalline or Multicrystalline are a newer technology and vary in the manufacturing process.

Construction

Polycrystalline start as a silicon crystal ‘seed’ placed in a vat of molten silicon. However, rather than draw the silicon crystal seed up as with Monocrystalline the vat of silicon is simply allowed to cool. This is what forms the distinctive edges and grains in the solar cell.

Thin Film

  • Commercial panels sit between 7-13% efficiency
  • Requires more space than Mono or Polycrystalline
  • Less affected by shading than Mono or Polycrystalline
  • More efficient in low light conditions

Thin film panels are a totally different technology to Mono and Poly crystalline panels. They are a new technology compared to Mono and Polycrystalline cells.

A thin film panel can be identified as having a solid black appearance. They may or may not have a frame, if the panel has no frame it is a thin film panel. 

Examples of the most common photovoltaic substances used are:

  • Amorphous Silicon
  • Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)
  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CGIS)
  • Dye-sensitized solar cell (DSC)

Each of the above are known as different panel ‘types’ but all fall under the umbrella of being a Thin Film panel.

Construction

Thin film panels are made by depositing a photovoltaic substance onto a solid surface like glass. The photovoltaic substance that is used varies and multiple combinations of substances have successfully and commercially been used.

Top 4 Brands Available In AustraliaThere are many different brands of solar panels available in Australia. If you want to find out more on the highly reviewed brands in Australia, click here.

 
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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.