If you’re going to buy something big, then why not choose the best?
Choices oftentimes can make it difficult to make the best decision. But when it comes to technology, it’s relatively easy to distinguish between top notch materials with some research, analysis, and testing.
The PV technology encompasses a variety of technologies including monocrystalline (single crystal), polycrystalline (multiple crystal), cadmium telluride, gallium arsenide, or amorphous silicon deposited as a thin film.
I will discuss the four main types commercially used. They include monocrystalline silicon PV, polycrystalline silicon PV, amorphous silicon PV, and hybrid PV.
Monocrystalline silicon was invented in 1955. These crystals are grown and cut from a piece of continuous crystal into thin slices between 0.2 and 0.3 mm thick. They are often seen in the shape of a hexagon, but may be rounded or seen as other shapes in order to reduce the amount of material wasted. Since each cell is cut from a single crystal, the color is seen as a uniform dark blue, or black as in the case with some SunPower brand panels. More time and energy is required to produce these types of crystals than its polycrystalline counterpart and is thus, a bit more expensive.
Polycrystalline emerged around 1981. They are produced from a molten just like monocrystalline silicon PV; however, instead of being grown into a single crystal they are heated to a certain temperature, melted, poured, and cooled in a mold. This process is what makes the material non-uniform in color and squared. Without rough edges to be concerned about, more of the material can be utilized rather than wasted. These square blocks are usually cut into 0.3 mm square wafer slices. The color blue reflects the least amount of light yet absorbs the most light and therefore has the greatest qualities for solar panel functionality and efficiency.
Amorphous silicon PV is not crystalline. The layers are usually between 0.5 to 2.0 mm thick. The idea is that instead of utilizing a large amount of material, a thin deposit of the silicon, cadmium telluride, or other is deposited on a sheet of metal or glass. In this process, less material is needed and more can be conserved to make more modules.
Hybrid PV, as its name suggests, utilizes two different types of PV technology. A combination could incorporate the use of monocrystalline silicon PV alongside a thin layer of amorphous silicon PV.
Which technology is the best?
Technology is always growing and advancing. Currently, the technology that has the highest efficiency with the overall greater advantage is the monocrystalline technology.
Monocrystalline silicon has efficiency between 13-17%. Polycrystalline modules have efficiency between 11-15%. Amorphous silicon PV, although cheaper, only has efficiency between 6-8%. As for hybrid technology, the efficiency is possibly better than monocrystalline alone, but that comes with a higher price tag.
There is a reason why the most commonly used material are monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon PV. Cost and efficiency.
When it comes to decision-making for solar panels, efficiency and cost take the cake. After all, we all want a return on our investment at the best rate possible, right?
Why choose monocrystalline silicon PV over the other options?
Monocrystalline has the higher efficiency on a practical scale and requires less space. Although thin film can be cheaper, it results in less efficiency that ends up requiring more space and therefore more material to yield the same amount of energy.
The Solar Company is a SunPower Elite Dealer that installs solar panels using monocrystalline technology. This gives customers a much bigger and better bang for their buck. We only want to provide and be part of the best.
So. why choose monocrystalline technology? It’s the best!