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The different types of solar panels

How do solar panels work?

When sunlight touches the surface of a solar panel, the solar panels consist of many photovoltaic (PV) cells, and these cells absorb the energy (photons) from the sun. The PV cells then generate green electricity - this is called the Photovoltaic effect which was originally discovered in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel.

What are the different types of solar panels?

There are three main types of solar panels, which we've outlined below with a brief description.

Monocrystalline solar panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are the "oldest" type of solar panels in terms of their development, and are a premium panel. As alluded to in their name, they are made of single (mono) crystal (crystalline) silicon solar cells. These solar cells are made by forming pure silicon into bars, and cut into wafer style sections. The cell edges are cut and rounded off, and smoothed out, which helps the solar cells produce more electricity.

Given monocrystalline panels are made from high quality silicon, they tend to be more expensive, but also tend to last longer and have higher efficiencies. Monocrystalline panels are normally black and have a high quality and uniformed finish when they're installed. If you've noticed the more modern, black, solar panels on any roof near you, these are monocrystalline panels.

Polycrystalline solar panels

Polycrystalline, or multi-crystalline panels, are often recognised as the "mid-range" panel. Although they're less efficient than the monocrystalline panels, they are a more affordable option. Polycrystalline panels are made by melting raw silicon together and Whilst they are still made from silicon, they are created using many (poly) fragments of silicon crystal, melted together, with many crystals in each cell. This is why they are less efficient than monocrystalline panels, because the electrons have less space to move around.

Polycrystalline panel creation is better for the environment as they don't require the four sides to be cut, which means less waste.

Polycrystalline solar panels can be identified by their blue colour and speckled finish - this is because of the many crystals and the way the sunlight reflects off them.

Thin film solar panels

As hinted to in their name, thin film panels are very thin and flexible, normally 350 times thinner than the monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. They are manufactured from layers of materials like non-crystalline silicon, copper indium gallium selenide and cadium telluride, which are all semi-conducting.

The semi-conductor layer is placed between transparent conducting layers, with a layer of glass on the top to capture the sunlight. Thin film solar panels tend to have far lower efficiency and power in comparison to monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, but you may have seen they are being used in the moulding of solar roof tiles, which might appeal to those who do not like the appearance of solar panels.

Which type of solar panel is the best?

Choosing the right solar panel tends to depend on your specific project, electricity usage, space and budget.

Whilst polycrystalline panels are used on residential/domestic properties a lot, due to their affordability, monocrystalline panels are fantastic for people who want a higher efficiency, power capacity, and the sleek black look.

While thin film solar panels are almost never used on domestic properties, they are great for listed buildings due to their lightweight nature, and can be great for commercial usage too.

If you are still unsure of what type of solar panel you would like to use, please contact us by clicking here. Volta Green Energy Ltd have years of experience as solar panel installers in Kent, and the South East, and would be more than happy to help.


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