Solar Panel Types: Mono/Poly Crystalline and Thin Film

March 15, 2017

If you were to take a long, broad view of the rooftops of the most active solar power area of the United States, you would probably notice only slight variations in solar panel size, color and configuration. They would most all seem to be rectangular in shape, fairly flat and mounted in areas that have the highest concentration of direct light from the sun. However, upon closer investigation, you would begin to notice more obvious differences, like the assortment of silicon wafers within a panel, or the shade of black or blue that they have against one another. Why do these subtle-yet-obvious differences there at all? Aren’t all solar panels essentially the same?

No, they aren’t. In fact, PV solar panels differ in at least two key ways. First, 90%+ of all PV solar panels installed today are considered silicon-based, ‘crystalline’ panels that get their name from having either a monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon molecular structure. Second, the physical structure of the PV cell varies between polycrystalline and monocrystalline formats. In a monocrystalline PV cell, high-purity silicon is arranged in wafer-like configurations that take full advantage of the molecular structure. Polycrystalline versions contain silicon that is technically less pure (and hence slightly less efficient); however, they are less expensive than their monocrystalline counterparts.

Thin-film solar cells (TFSC) use a completely different manufacturing technology. In a thin-film solar cell, the electrocondutive medium is applied to a specific substrate that distributes the material into a ‘thin film’, giving it the name. TFSC technology is not restricted to the use of silicon, either. Copper, cadmium, gallium and even ‘organic’ PV cells are being developed to meet the ongoing demand of consumers in both residential and commercial applications. Builders of TFSC materials hope to be able to achieve panel efficiency numbers in the 15-18% range in the coming years. This will depend heavily on how well these panels maintain their outputs over time.

Choosing the right material for your solar array doesn’t have to be a confusing trip through a physics textbook. The team at Urban Solar understands this technology so that you don’t have to. We put our expertise to work for you, designing and commissioning solar power production systems that are in line with your goals and objectives related to living more sustainably and frugally. Want to know what your options are for outfitting your home or business with solar power? Contact us today and inquire about our completely free energy assessment. Our agents are ready to work with you now.