Do you know that the world is gradually phasing out fossil fuels in favor of clean and renewable energy? Solar energy is radiant energy from the sun. Solar panels are needed to tap this free source of energy for the benefit of mankind.

But without proper knowledge, getting the best product for your needs might be hard. So, you must first know the types of solar panels and their efficiency. The four major solar panels available are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, PERC, and thin-film panels.

These panels are efficient and will enable you to embrace this energy revolution for your needs. Keep reading to learn more about them and their efficiency ratings.

Types of Solar Panels

Solar panels are classified based on materials used and efficiency. There are four main types of panels. They are:

  • Monocrystalline panels
  • Polycrystalline panels
  • PERC panels
  • Thin-film panels

Monocrystalline Panels

They are also called single crystal panels, created from pure silicon crystal, and have a distinct black color. They are long-lasting but quite expensive. The panel is made up of a single crystal; this maximizes space for the flow of electricity.

This solar panel comprises 60-72 cells, and the number of cells is relative to its size. For residential areas, a 60-cell variant is mostly used. They have a higher output than thin-film and polycrystalline panels. They are used for domestic and commercial purposes, like street lights and to charge devices.

Key features

  • They are arranged in a pyramid pattern, and this helps to capture more energy from the sun.
  • This type can last up to 30 years.
  • Great heat resistance.
  • The cells are coated with a layer of silicon nitride. This prevents reflection and increases absorption.

Polycrystalline panels

The key difference between them and the monocrystalline panels is that they are made from different silicon crystals. They are also less expensive than monocrystalline panels. Polycrystalline panels are ideal for being mounted on the roof and are used in many solar farms.

They have a characteristic blue color and are structured with multiple PV (photovoltaic) cells. These cells are made up of silicon crystals, and they act as semiconductors. Also, they have a lower tolerance to heat than monocrystalline panels.

Key features

  • The manufacturing process consumes less silicon.
  • They are more affordable.
  • Support batteries and inverters.

Passivated Emitter and rear Cell Panels (PERC)

PERC panels were created as an upgrade to monocrystalline panels. A passivation layer is added to the rear side of the cell to make it more efficient. Passivation is simply a measure taken to prevent corrosion (rust). Due to the extra layer on these panels, they can capture more sunlight and convert it to electricity.

Key Features

  • PERC panels channel the reflection of light back to the cell, thus increasing the solar energy retained.
  • Enable greater wavelengths of light to be reflected and reduces the waste of solar power.
  • The solar panels prevent electrons from combining and blocking the free flow of electrons in the system.
  • Optimized energy production.
  • Ideal for high-heat/low-light environments.

Thin-film panels

The panels have flexible layers on them. They come without a frame and are generally lighter to carry. They consist of thin layers (films) of semiconductors placed on the glass. Thin-film panels are produced with materials that are photogenic and absorb light.

Materials combination

  • Cadmium telluride: This material is relatively affordable, requires less water for cleaning the panels, and effectively combats carbon emissions. However, Cadmium is a toxic element, and the recycling process is quite expensive.
  • Amorphous silicon: Amorphous silicon does not require much silicon to be produced. They are used for small products like watches. Amorphous silicon is cheap, but the glass used to create the panels is quite expensive.
  • Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS): This panel is constructed with a thin layer of Copper, Gallium, Indium, and Selenium. This combination makes it an efficient option.

Key Features

  • They are flexible and can be made from different types of materials.
  • Thin-film panels are the most affordable panels.
  • They are easy to install due to how light they are.

How efficient are the different types of solar panels?

Decisions on the type of solar panel to install are not made randomly but based on purpose and efficiency. Solar panel efficiency measures how much sunlight the panel can successfully convert to electricity. The types of solar panels and their efficiency can be summarized as follows:

       Solar Panel Efficiency Rating
    Monocrystalline 17%-20%
    Polycrystalline 15-17%
    PERC 25% and above is the most efficient.
    CIGS 13-15%
    Cadmium telluride 9-11%
    Amorphous silicon 6-8%

Popular types of solar panels and their efficiency

Name Power rating Efficiency
SunPower 440W 22.8%
Canadian Solar 440W 22.5%
SPIC 440W 22.3%
REC 430W 22.3%
Q cells 400W 22.3%
Panasonic 410W 22.2%
Jinko Solar 480W 22.2%
Trina Star 425W 21.9%
Futura Sun 430W 21.8%
Meyer Burger 400W 21.7%

 

The main factors that affect the efficiency of a solar panel are its material makeup absorption rate and size. A highly efficient panel will also produce maximum amounts of electricity in the shortest possible time.

Efficiency with Temperature

The area’s temperature plays a large part in how efficient a panel will be. Temperature above or below 25°C can reduce or increase the efficiency of a solar panel. The maximum deviation from the 25 °C standards ranges between 15 °C for lower temperatures and 65 °C for higher temperatures.

The efficiency of Panel Size

A larger panel might not necessarily be more efficient. But a larger panel with larger cells will increase the surface area of the panel, which will increase the absorption of sunlight. When more sunlight is received, it increases efficiency.

Common Panel size ranges

60-cell (width 0.98m length 1.65m)

66-cell (width1.10m length 1080m)

72-cell (width 1.0m length 2.0m)

78-cell (width 1.30m length 2.4m)

92-104 cells (width 1.05m, length 1.60m). These figures are approximate values.

Conclusion

Solar panels are vital components in the propagation of clean and renewable energy. The choice of the panel type is mostly based on cost, size, power conversion rate, and durability. Also, geographical location can determine selecting panels for maximum efficiency.

Different types of solar panels exist and are used for varied applications. Maximum efficiency is attained when a panel is installed correctly and regularly maintained. Solar farms require a lot of panels for maximum output.

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