Are All PV Panels Created Equal?

April 14, 2016

You may already know that ‘PV’ is short for  ‘photovoltaic’, a term used to describe the technology used in solar panels. ‘Photo’ refers to the light coming from the sun, and ‘voltaic’ refers to the electric charge that is generated by the ionized atoms contained in every panel. But is any single photovoltaic panel as efficient or well-built as another? As your residential and commercial solar power experts, Urban Solar can help answer this question.

Build Quality

Before we can even begin to consider the power output ratings and efficiency of any solar panel, we need to evaluate its build quality. Was the panel constructed in a factory that is solely dedicated to producing solar panels? Does the manufacturer adhere to quality control standards like ISO? Do the panels get batch tested for faults, or is every single panel run through a gamut of tests before shipping?

The truth is that there are huge variations in solar panel build quality. Some cheaper panels are sourced using materials available on the open market. These panels are typically assembled by hand in a factory that also turns out other products. Higher quality panels are assembled by automated machines in a sterile environment. This makes for a more reliable, longer-lasting panel.

Silicon Variants

Most all PV panels contain silicon, but not all silicon is manufactured the same. Monocrystalline silicon, for example, touts a higher efficiency rating and generally good tolerance for heat while maintaining a reasonably small footprint.

Polycrystalline (also known as multi-crystalline)-based PV panels have become the panel of choice for many residential installations. Technological developments in the manufacturing of polycrystalline panels have brought to market solar modules that perform as well or better than monocrystalline panels of a similar size.

Lastly, amorphous (also referred to as thin-film) silicon incorporates the smallest amount of actual silicon in the panel. The cheapest and least efficient solar panels are almost always thin-film versions, however newer thin-film panels are becoming surprisingly efficient, giving cause to reconsider this manufacturing method as commercially viable.
Regardless of which solar panel is best for your particular situation, Urban Solar can help demystify the options. Contact us today and ask about our free, no-obligation energy assessment.