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QUICK NEWS: German solar PV firm Q-Cells has announced that one of its projects, which will be the largest solar power park in Europe, will be completed and sending electricity to about 22,500 Germans near Berlin by the end of 2011. The solar park is a 91-MW facility with 383,000 solar modules and is located on what was once the Brandenburg-Briest airbase. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter. Zachary Shahan is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) one letter at a time. Network and establish your business in one of North America’s largest energy industries.
CleanTechnica is the #1 cleantech-focused news & analysis website in the US & the world, focusing primarily on electric cars, solar energy, wind energy, & energy storage. You will be contacted by up to three, independent, trusted solar system suppliers shortly (usually within 48 hours). If you want to find out which solar panel type is best for your situation, simply request a Free Solar Consultation. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the different types of solar panels for home use (mono-, polycrystalline and thin film). Let’s start with the different types of solar panels currently on the market, list their benefits and downsides, and then look at a few typical scenarios where certain types would be the better than others (hopefully one of them resonates with you). The term solar panels will be used to describe photovoltaic solar panels (the type that generates electricity), not solar thermal collectors. The efficiency of solar panels goes hand in hand with purity, but the processes used to enhance the purity of silicon are expensive. Compare Solar Panels is the most comprehensive and up-to-date solar panel comparison service on the Internet.
Monocrystalline solar cells are made out of silicon ingots, which are cylindrical in shape.
A good way to separate mono- and polycrystalline solar panels is that polycrystalline solar cells look perfectly rectangular with no rounded edges.
Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest efficiency rates since they are made out of the highest-grade silicon. Tend to perform better than similarly rated polycrystalline solar panels at low-light conditions.
If the solar panel is partially covered with shade, dirt or snow, the entire circuit can break down.
The first solar panels based on polycrystalline silicon, which also is known as polysilicon (p-Si) and multi-crystalline silicon (mc-Si), were introduced to the market in 1981.
Polycrystalline solar panels tend to have slightly lower heat tolerance than monocrystalline solar panels. Monocrystalline and thin-film solar panels tend to be more aesthetically pleasing since they have a more uniform look compared to the speckled blue color of polycrystalline silicon. Evergreen Solar was the main manufacturer of solar panels using the String Ribbon technology. The manufacturing of String Ribbon solar panels only uses half the amount silicon as monocrystalline manufacturing. The manufacturing of String Ribbon solar panels is significantly more energy extensive and more costly.
Efficiency is at best on par with the low-end polycrystalline solar panels at around 13-14%. String Ribbon solar panels have the lowest space-efficiency of any of the main types of crystalline-based solar panels.
Depositing one or several thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate is the basic gist of how thin-film solar cells are manufactured.
Depending on the technology, thin-film module prototypes have reached efficiencies between 7–13% and production modules operate at about 9%. Thin-film solar panels tend to degrade faster than mono- and polycrystalline solar panels, which is why they typically come with a shorter warranty.
Because the output of electrical power is low, solar cells based on amorphous silicon have traditionally only been used for small-scale applications such as in pocket calculators. With a manufacturing technique called “stacking”, several layers of amorphous silicon solar cells can be combined, which results in higher efficiency rates (typically around 6-8%). Only 1% of the silicon used in crystalline silicon solar cells is required in amorphous silicon solar cells.
Cadmium telluride is the only thin-film solar panel technology that has surpassed the cost-efficiency of crystalline silicon solar panels in a significant portion of the market (multi-kilowatt systems). The efficiency of solar panels based on cadmium telluride usually operates in the range 9-11%. First Solar has installed over 5 gigawatts (GW) of cadmium telluride thin-film solar panels worldwide.
Compared to the other thin-film technologies above, CIGS solar cells have showed the most potential in terms of efficiency.

Learn more about thin film solar panels here: Best Thin Film Solar Panels – Amorphous, Cadmium Telluride or CIGS? Building integrated photovoltaics can be facades, roofs, windows, walls and many other things that is combined with photovoltaic material. Having your particular situation evaluated by an expert would be the best way to find out what solar panel type would be best for your household. For those who don’t have enough space for thin-film solar panels (the majority of us), or if you want to limit the amount of space their PV-system takes up, crystalline-based solar panels are your best choice (and they would likely be the your best choice even if you had the extra space). Monocrystalline solar panels are slightly more expensive, but also slightly more space-efficient. We always keep an up-to-date list over the most efficient solar panels on the market today: What are the Most Efficient Solar Panels?
If you want the lowest costs per rated power, or in other words, pay as little as possible for a certain amount of electricity, you should investigate if thin-film solar panels could in fact be a better choice than mono- or polycrystalline solar panels.
To see which solar panels are currently the cheapest, head over to Top 10 Cheapest (Best Value) Solar Panels. I am final year student doing BEng Electrical Electronic Engineering at London South Bank University in UK.
Monocrystalline have higher heat tolerance and therefore perform slightly better than polycrystalline modules in a warm climate. Heat tolerance is usually not something that you have to take into account unless you`re in a very warm climate. Since these solar panels yield the highest power outputs, they also require the least amount of space compared to any other types. Consider getting micro-inverters instead of central string inverters if you think coverage will be a problem. You basically agree with what is written in the article and help clarifying some of the aspects that might cause confusion. As for the length of warranty – It is true that all reputable solar manufacturers produce solar panels with a 25-year long warranty, but this is not true for every solar panel on the market.
Hi Mathias, I am currently doing a PV yield simulation on PVSYST, i have compared the energy output of PV farm using LG Si- Polycrystalline module versus using LG Si- Monocrystalline module. Since you have a lot of available space on your roof, I would go for the cheapest system and scale as wanted. There is a portable product that I want to buy to charge my cell and handheld devices made from Monocrystalline when I am off the grid.
We are purchasing an EV and decided that adding a PV array to our roof would not only lower our electric bill, but would also cover the electricity used to charge our EV. Can a solar panel be set up inside a house and charged by sun coming “thru a window”??? I failed to mention that putting solar panels on my roof is out of the question, as I live in a townhome and the CCRs do not permit it. I have recently been having quotes for solar pv & was told about a battery called midnight sun from an Italian company that stores the solar energy you have generated in battery for later use. Also, I have a small roof space & it looks like I am only going to get 6 panels on, though 2 of the 3 companies so far said 7 panels. It is part of Important Media -- a network of 20 progressive blogs working to make the world a better, greener place.
Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by, and do not necessarily represent the views of Sustainable Enterprises Media, Inc., its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.
The more perfectly aligned the silicon molecules are, the better the solar cell will be at converting solar energy (sunlight) into electricity (the photoelectric effect).
To optimize performance and lower costs of a single monocrystalline solar cell, four sides are cut out of the cylindrical ingots to make silicon wafers, which is what gives monocrystalline solar panels their characteristic look. Most solar panel manufacturers put a 25-year warranty on their monocrystalline solar panels.
For a complete overview over how the efficiency rates of the various solar cell technologies have advanced since 1975 check out Best Research-Cell Efficiencies (NREL). From a financial standpoint, a solar panel that is made of polycrystalline silicon (and in some cases thin-film) can be a better choice for some homeowners. If you want to learn about what other equipment a photovoltaic system consists of, go to Grid-Tied, Off-Grid and Hybrid Solar Systems. Unlike monocrystalline-based solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels do not require the Czochralski process. This technically means that they perform slightly worse than monocrystalline solar panels in high temperatures. Because of lower silicon purity, polycrystalline solar panels are not quite as efficient as monocrystalline solar panels.
You generally need to cover a larger surface to output the same electrical power as you would with a solar panel made of monocrystalline silicon.
String Ribbon is the name of a manufacturing technology that produces a form of polycrystalline silicon.

However, recent innovations have made them more attractive for some large-scale applications too. These solar cells contain less amounts of the toxic material cadmium that is found in CdTe solar cells. Rather than an individual type of solar cell technology, building integrated photovoltaics have several subtypes (or different methods of integration), which can be based on both crystalline-based and thin-film solar cells. If you have the extra money and want to seemlessly integrate photovoltaics with the rest of your home, you should look up building integrated photovoltaics.
There are not a whole lot of solar installers and providers that offer thin-film solar panels for homeowners at this point. Even though polycrystalline solar panels tend to be less space-efficient and monocrystalline solar panels tend to produce more electrical power, this is not always the case. If you had one polycrystalline and one monocrystalline solar panel, both rated 220-watt, they would generate the same amount of electricity, but the one made of monocrystalline silicon would take up less space. For example, monocrystalline is recommended in most of Australia, except in for far north where thin-film perform slightly better in some cases. Monocrystalline solar panels produce up to four times the amount of electricity as thin-film solar panels.
Micro-inverters will make sure that not the entire solar array is affected by shading issues with only one of the solar panels. I realised that the energy production if used Si-Polycrstalline module is slightly more than that than if Si-Monocrystalline module were used even though Si-Polycrystalline module has lower efficiency than Si-Monocrystalline module.
I am building a new house with heated slab and will be installing solar panels to feed into the grid to offset heating costs. There’s a myriad of variables that you should take into account when you are buying a solar photovoltaic (PV) system – our job here at Energy Informative is to help you sort through them! As you will later discover, cost-and space-efficiency are the determining factors for most people. Solar Cell Comparison Chart provides a quick overview over the different cell types, their benefits and how they compare against each other. Raw silicon is melted and poured into a square mold, which is cooled and cut into perfectly square wafers. However, this does not mean every monocrystalline solar panel perform better than those based on polycrystalline silicon. Temperature-resistant wires are pulled through molten silicon, which results in very thin silicon ribbons. They are manufactured exactly the same way, but under- or overperform when tested, hence ending up in different categories for power output. It would be nearly impossible to recommend one or the other by not examining the solar panels and your situation closer. Contact the installer and ask for payback time, lifelengths, any performance issues down the line and so on (The installer should be able to help you with this). Where I will be using this product the summer temperature prior to the humidity factor is at the high end of the temperature given and normally does not surpass it.
Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, energy storage, and wind energy expert. Check out What Factors Determine Solar Panel Efficiency? for more information on this subject. Solar panels made with this technology looks similar to traditional polycrystalline solar panels. If size is important, you should go for the highest rated power output for a particular physical size.
Does the humidity factor come into play when considering the impact on the the optimal operating temperature? One company suggests that we use Ecosolargy polycrystalline panels, which gives us a cost reduction between $2500 and $5500 over the monocrystalline panels. The winters do not drop below 32 F even though they come close and the wind chill factor does not bring it under either. For all the research that I have done, no one and no company has ever explained if the humidity factor is part of their optimal operating temperature for their Monocrystalline.
Obviously the SunPower panels will offer the greatest production using the smallest area, but we are having sticker shock with the cost. Do you believe we would be making a mistake to purchase these as compared to more expensive monocrystalline panels from SunPower, SolarWorld, Shuco, or Sharp? We have between 87-94% and 91-97% shade free on the two areas we plan to populate with panels using a Solmetric Shade Analysis tool.

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