Have you ever wondered how solar panels capture the tiniest sunbeam and turn it into electricity? Hundreds of solar cells (also called photovoltaic cells) make up a solar photovoltaic (PV) array. While there are dozens of variations of solar cells, the most common types of solar cells are those made of crystalline silicon (both monocrystalline and polycrystalline) and those made with thin film technology.
Which type of solar cell is the best? What are the criteria for choosing a solar panel? It’s all about the struggle between efficiency and cost. Different types of solar cells and their efficiency inextricably links with purity. When the level of purity goes up, the silicon molecules will align more perfectly, and the conversion from sunlight to electricity improves as well. However, the processes used to enhance the purity of silicon are expensive.
Among common types of solar cells, monocrystalline solar panels price is the highest. They also have the highest efficiency rates because they are made out of the highest-grade silicon. Another advantage of monocrystalline cells is that they also last the longest. Many manufacturers offer warranties of up to 25 years on these types of PV systems.
There are several ways to distinguish monocrystalline solar cells from polycrystalline ones. In appearance, latter ones look perfectly rectangular with no rounded edges. Plus, polycrystalline material has a lower purity. Polycrystalline solar PV systems are much more affordable than monocrystalline ones; however, they does not operate as efficiently as their mono-counterparts do. Polycrystalline solar panel advantages cannot be neglected.
Thin film solar cells are characterized by the manner in which various type of semi-conducting materials are layered on top of one another to create a series of thin films. Thin film solar panels could be potentially cheap because mass-production is not a big problem. However, they require a lot of space, making the installations in urban areas difficult.
95% of silicon solar cells on the market are comprised of crystalline silicon, making this the most common and the best type of solar cell. When it comes to choose the best solar panel type for households or workplace, efficiency seems to ultimately prevail.