Which Solar Panels Are The Best?
Solar cell technology has been evolving rapidly over the last few decades. Still, more options do not make it any easier to decide which solar panels are the best for your situation.
Here is a quick rundown on the solar panels available, plus a few of the emerging technologies promising increased gains in solar panel efficiency.
The three most common types of solar cells you are most likely to come across are:
- Monocrystalline solar panels (Mono / Mono PERC)
- Polycrystalline solar panels (Poly)
- Bifacial solar panels
Read on to learn more about each type, their differences, and how to know which one is right for you.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono / Mono PERC)
Monocrystalline solar panels are distinguishable by their single, flat black color. You can also identify the type by the shape of their wafers, which resemble squares with the corners removed.
They derive their name from the manufacturing process. Each cell contains a silicon wafer made from a single silicon crystal. One seed crystal is dropped into a vat of molten silicon to grow one large crystal, which is then sliced into thin wafers.
Monocrystalline solar panels will contain either 60 or 72 solar cells, with 60 cell solar panels making up most residential installations.
A monocrystalline panel will have a solar panel efficiency between 17% and 22%. They are durable, have a long life, and work well in cooler climates. If roof space is at a premium, then monocrystalline cells make an excellent choice.
However, monocrystalline solar panels are typically the most expensive because of the manufacturing process, but the price gap is shrinking.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels (Poly)
You can recognize polycrystalline solar panels from their deep blue color and cells without the corners cut off. The color puts many residents off using this type of solar panel because they consider it an eyesore.
The manufacturing process is like monocrystalline cells in that a seed crystal is dropped into a vat of molten silica. However, instead of removing one large crystal for processing, the entire vat is allowed to cool into many crystals, hence the name.
A polycrystalline solar panel is not as efficient as a similarly sized monocrystalline cell, with solar efficiencies ranging from 15% to 17%. However, with new technologies, the gap between the competing cells is decreasing with every generation. Later iterations of poly solar panels have pushed 60-cell solar energy generation from 240-watts to over 300-watts.
Bifacial Solar Panels
A bifacial solar cell can produce solar energy from both sides of the panel, which creates obvious solar panel efficiency advantages but limits their potential in an urban environment because of sloped roofs.
Energy from the front of the panel is produced by direct sunlight, while the back of the panel captures reflected light. Naturally, the more reflective the installation surface, the more energy the solar panel can generate.
Typically, bifacial panels are manufactured using the monocrystalline process.
Bifacial panels work best when tilted at an angle to the surface on which they are installed. Large commercial properties with flat, white roofs or ground-mounted arrays will realize the most gains when using bifacial panels.
Future Generations of Solar Technology
Solar power is an important alternative energy source, which is why it will continue to attract investment in research and development for creating more efficient, less costly solar cells like heterojunction solar panels.
In a heterojunction solar panel, a crystalline silicon cell is sandwiched between two layers of amorphous (not crystalline) silicon.
Amorphous silicon is not efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, but it is much cheaper to manufacture.
When a conventional monocrystalline structure is sandwiched between two amorphous silicon layers, the solar cell can capture more photons than was previously possible.
Other solar technologies like flexible solar panels have had limited appeal because of their inefficiency but have remained attractive because of their flexibility. Previous generations could produce single-digit percentage efficiencies, but recent developments have enabled researchers to increase gains to 23%.
Get Expert Solar Panel Advice
If you aren’t sure about which solar panel option is best for you, then be sure to get in touch with our team experts to receive impartial, professional advice. Learn how you can reduce your carbon footprint and your energy bills through solar today.