The Three Types of Solar Panels to Know in 2021

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By now, most homeowners, businesses and even renters are aware of the environmental and financial benefits solar power has to offer. Even better, solar technology has dramatically improved over the years, bringing forth a range of innovative solar panels to the market. The three most common types available to consumers are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film solar panels. All three types of panels harness energy from the sun, but there are some key differences to be aware of:

Monocrystalline solar panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most commonly used residential solar panel to date because of their power capacity and efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels can reach efficiencies higher than 20%, making them the most efficient panel on the market. While 20% may not sound impressive, there’s a reason behind it. The sun’s rays span a broad spectrum of wavelengths and depending on the characteristics of the semiconductors and design of a solar cell, some of that light can be reflected, passed though, and eventually absorbed and converted into electricity. For this reason, researchers are focusing on figuring out how to design more efficient conductors for solar panels.

One of the easiest ways to identify a monocrystalline solar panel is by its color. The cells on a module typically appears black to the eye because of how light interacts with its high-quality silicon, making it function well in low light conditions. For this reason, they are more efficient as black surfaces absorb light more easily. They also tend to generate more power than other types of panels, not only because of their efficiency but because they come in higher wattage modules with more than 300 watts of power capacity. Most individuals enjoy the sleeker aesthetics of monocrystalline solar panels on their roof for this factor, as they blend in well with black roof shingles. While efficiency and appearance make it a better selling point, they tend to be more expensive in part due to their manufacturing process.

Polycrystalline solar panels

Polycrystalline solar panels have been around for quite some time and are common among many individuals looking to go solar on a budget. These types of solar panels usually have efficiencies between 15% to 17%. While they aren’t as efficient as they counterpart monocrystalline, their advantage is their price point. The reason being is that the cells are produced from many silicon fragments, hence “poly”, rather than a single pure silicon crystal that’s used in monocrystalline cells. This allows for a simpler cell manufacturing process, therefore making it more cost efficient to the end user.

A polycrystalline panel’s blue hues comes from the anti-reflective coating that helps improve the absorbed capacity and efficiency of the solar panel.

Thin film solar panels

Thin film solar panels tend to have lower efficiencies and power capacities than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. While efficiency can vary based on the certain material used in the solar cells, they usually lean more towards an efficiency of 11%. Lower efficiency ratings mean more thin film solar panels that would need to be installed in order to produce the same amount of electricity as a monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar system. For this reason, thin film solar panels might not be the best option for residential solar. On the other hand, they make the most sense in larger scale installations like utility-scale solar projects, as more panels can be installed to meet energy demands.

Thin film solar panels are made with solar cells that have light absorbing layers about 350 times smaller than the average silicon panel, making them very flexible. They come in both blue and black hues, depending on what they are made of. The most predominant type of thin film solar panel is made from cadmium telluride but they can also be made from amorphous silicon, which is similar to the composition of mono and polycrystalline panels, and copper indium gallium selenide. As far as cost goes, what you pay for thin film panels will largely depend on what exactly they are made from, but overall, the cost of a thin film solar panel installation tends to be lower than installing a monocrystalline or polycrystalline system.

What types of solar panels does Nexamp use?

At Nexamp, we build, own and operate our solar farms and manage the process from start to finish. Our farms come in different shapes, sizes, and panels. While we use both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels on our projects, our top priority is to keep our assets operating at 100% at all times, and we remain confident that our solar farms will generate power to provide clean energy savings to our subscribers.

The aesthetics of rooftop solar can sometimes be a hurdle when it comes to individuals making the switch to solar. And for some, rooftop solar might not be an option at all if they don’t have the right roof, don’t own a home, or simply find the installation prices too high. Community solar programs are a common way for many homeowners, businesses and even renters to go solar without actually installing anything on their roof. Participants can subscribe to a nearby solar farm and pay a lower price for the electricity sourced from it.

Installing either monocrystalline, polycrystalline, thin film solar panels, or subscribing to a community solar farm will help you reduce your electricity costs, while supporting the transition to a decarbonized future. Consider your needs and budget when determining the best option for your home and lifestyle. To discuss your eligibility to one of our community solar farms, contact us today!

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