Solar Panels – A Guide To The Different Types Available

Everyday it seems that there is a new report on the situation of the world’s natural resources; news articles that are seemingly designed to scare us into stopping using our cars and lighting our homes. Unfortunately, although some of these reports may be ‘dressed up’ to make the situation out to be worse than it is, the fact of the matter is that this is the situation – the world’s natural resources, such as fossil fuels like coal and oil, are running out and we will eventually have to find alternative sources of energy to replace them. While many people have suggested that advanced power generation technologies, such as nuclear fission, will take over and ‘save us’, the more sensible choice at this moment in time is to begin looking into renewable energy sources.

At this moment in time there are only a few truly viable alternatives for individuals from using power generated by the national grid. While energy generation from wind is effective, the most common form of renewable energy generation technology is photovoltaic panels, also more commonly known as solar panels. Photovoltaic technology has improved drastically since it was first developed in 1954 and co-currently prices have decreased, meaning that it is more economically attainable for individuals, and therefore a relatively sound financial choice. There are a number of different types of solar panel available on the market today, with the main types being those detailed below. Monocrystalline silicon panels are made up of one single layer of silicon sheet, lined with metal edges to improve conductivity. This type of solar panel is the most expensive you can buy, but the electricity return rate is the highest of all types at between 14% and 18%. Polycrystalline (or multicrystalline) solar panels are slightly different and use a number of small photovoltaic cells instead of one large cell. They are typically less efficient than monocrystalline panels but are cheaper to manufacture and maintain.

Using the same concept as mono and polycrystalline panels is the string ribbon silicon panel. While the monocrystalline panel is effectively one large photovoltaic cell, and the polycrystalline panel is lots of small photovoltaic cells, the string ribbon panel is made up of columns of photovoltaic cells. This type of solar panel is claimed to be as good, if not better than, polycrystalline panels, achieving an electricity return rate of around 13%. One of the cheapest forms of solar panel is the amorphous silicon panel. As this technology does not use crystalline and it is, in fact, just a single film of silicon, it is somewhat easier to manufacture than other types of solar panel, making it much more inexpensive. Although it only offers a relatively poor electricity return rate of 5-6%, with this kind of technology it is possible to create flexible solar panels, unlike with poly or monocrystalline cells.

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