Explained: 7 Different Types of Solar Panels

Select the Most Appropriate Solar Panel for Your Home

Did you know that the sun can cover the world’s energy needs for a year with just one minute of energy production? In reality, the Sun will produce enough energy in 24 hours to power the entire world’s population for 27 years.
Therefore, solar energy is a very reliable and long-lasting energy source and a very economical and competitive energy source if the selected types of solar panels and environmental conditions are ideally balanced. Such exciting opportunities have grown in an industry that has poured a lot of work into creating effective strategies for generating, utilizing, and preserving the sun’s energy by turning sunlight into useful electricity using various types of solar panels.
Few people are aware of the various solar energy technologies available on the market, such as solar thermal and solar water heating.
While these alternatives to conventional solar panels are mostly used to heat water, the following subsections include a more in-depth look at the various solar panels used to generate green electricity. The wide variety of different types of solar panels currently available on the market results from decades of research, work, and development.
We also put together some helpful details about the most common and unique solar panels, as well as a general overview.
Solar Cell Type Efficiency-Rate Advantages Disadvantages
Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI) ~20% High-efficiency rate; optimized for commercial use; high lifetime value Expensive
Polycrystalline Solar Panels (p-Si) ~15% Lower price Sensitive to high temperatures; lower lifespan & slightly less space efficiency
Thin-Film: Amorphous Silicon Solar Panels (A-SI) ~7-10% Relatively low costs; easy to produce & flexible shorter warranties & lifespan
Concentrated PV Cell (CVP) ~41% Very high performance & efficiency rate Solar tracker & cooling system needed (to reach high-efficiency rate)

The Different Types of Solar Panels and How to Categorize Them

Solar panels come in many different types to meet a variety of needs and purposes. Given that sunlight can be used in many ways on Earth and space, location plays an important role in deciding which type of solar panel to use.
Differentiating between single-junction and multi-junction solar panels-or first, second, and third-generation is a common way to distinguish between different solar panels. Single-junction and multi-junction solar panels have different numbers of layers that can observe sunlight. Simultaneously, the classification by generation focuses on the various solar panels’ materials and performance.

1st Generation Panels

These are the most common solar panels in conventional settings, constructed of monocrystalline silicon or polysilicon.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI)

The purest solar panels are those made of monocrystalline silicon. The uniform dark appearance and rounded edges make them easy to identify. Because of the high purity of silicon, this solar panel has one of the highest efficiency values, with the most recent models exceeding 20%.
Monocrystalline panels provide the most electricity, take up the least amount of space, and last the longest. Of course, this implies that they are the most expensive of the group. Another benefit to consider is that, as opposed to polycrystalline panels, they are slightly less affected by elevated temperatures.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels (Poly-SI)

These panels are easily recognizable because they have squares, are not cut at angles, and have a blue, speckled look. They are manufactured by melting raw silicon, a more efficient and cost-effective process than monocrystalline panels.
This results in a low final price, but it also means lower efficiency (around 15%), less space efficiency, and a shorter lifespan since high temperatures more influence them. The distinctions between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are minor, and your decision would be based on your individual circumstances. The first alternative has a marginally higher space efficiency at a marginally higher cost, but the power outputs are essentially the same.

2nd Generation Panels

Thin-film solar cells of various types are often used in photovoltaic power stations, houses, and small solar systems.

Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)

Thin-film could be the way to go if you are looking for a more economical alternative. Thin-film solar panels are made by applying one or more photovoltaic films to a substrate (such as silicon, cadmium, or copper). These solar panels are the easiest to manufacture, and economies of scale make them less expensive than alternatives due to the reduced amount of material used.
They are also flexible, which means you can use them in various ways, and they are resistant to high temperatures. The key disadvantage is that they take up a lot of space, rendering them unsuitable for residential use. Furthermore, since their lifespan is shorter than monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, they have the shortest warranties. They can, however, be a reasonable choice when there is a lot of room to choose from among the various types of solar panels.

Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell (A-Si)

Have you ever used a handheld calculator that runs on solar power? Is that correct? Then you have most likely seen solar panels like this before. Of the various varieties of solar cells, the amorphous silicon solar cell is most often used in pocket calculators. This form of solar panel employs triple-layered technology, which is the most advanced thin-film technology available.
To give you a sense of what “thin” means, we are talking about a thickness of 1 micrometer in this case (one-millionth of a meter). While less effective than crystalline silicon cells, which have an efficiency rate of about 18 percent, A-Si-Cells have the advantage of being relatively inexpensive.

3rd Generation Panels

A variety of thin-film technologies are used in third-generation solar panels, but most of them are still in the research and development stage. Others use organic materials to produce energy, and others use inorganic materials (CdTe, for instance).

Biohybrid Solar Cell

One of the solar panel types which are still being researched is the Biohybrid solar cell. A Vanderbilt University expert team discovered it. Modern technology is based on using photosystem 1 to mimic the natural process of photosynthesis. The materials used in this cell are much of the same as those used in conventional approaches. When the different layers of photosystem 1 are integrated, the conversion from chemical to electrical energy is even more precise (up to 1000 times more efficient than 1st generation types of solar panels).

Cadmium Telluride Solar Cell (CdTe)

Among the various solar panels available, this photovoltaic technique employs Cadmium Telluride, which allows for the manufacture of solar cells at a low cost and thus a faster payback period (less than a year). This is the solar energy technology that uses the least amount of water in its production. CdTe solar cells will reduce carbon emissions as much as possible due to their limited electricity payback period. The most significant downside of using Cadmium Telluride is that it is toxic when consumed or inhaled.

Concentrated PV Cell (CVP and HCVP)

Concentrated photovoltaic cells produce electricity in the same way as traditional photovoltaic systems do. These multi-junction solar panels have a performance rating of up to 41%, which is the best among all photovoltaic systems so far.
CVP cells get their name from what makes them so effective relative to other types of solar panels: curved mirror surfaces, mirrors, and even cooling systems are used to bundle the sun’s rays and thereby improve their performance.
Because of this, CVP cells have become one of the most efficient solar panels, with a performance and efficiency rating of up to 41%. The truth remains that CVP solar panels can only be as effective if they face the sun directly. A solar sensor within the solar panel is responsible for following the sun to achieve such high-performance ratings.

3rd Generation Panels

A variety of thin-film technologies are used in third-generation solar panels, but most of them are still in the research and development stage. Others use organic materials to produce energy, and others use inorganic materials (CdTe, for instance).

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