What types of solar PV panels are there?
Posted by Paul Hutchens on 2 August 2010 at 9:58 am
Photovoltaic solar panels (PV) come in many different forms. Do you know your polycrystalline from your mono, or thin film from hybrid?
No - I thought not, and frankly I do not think I would if I were not in the industry!
There are a number of different types of solar photovoltaic systems available. Each do the same thing; convert solar radiation into electricity, but have different characteristics and prices. I will try to explain each in turn.
1. The cheapest (and least efficient) type of solar PV is known as "thin film" or amorphous silicon and is made by depositing a thin film of silicon onto a material such as glass. If you have a solar powered calculator or watch then it will use this technology. Although this type of solar is cheap, you need a large surface area. It is also suitable for high temperatures and is used in hotter countries to cover large areas. This type of system is not very prevalent in the UK yet.
2. Polycrystalline solar PV is made up of a number of smaller silicon crystals; usually cut to form a wafer. Although this is a less pure form of PV than, say, monocrystalline silicon (see later) it is still very effective and is generally cheaper than the mono version. It is generally dark blue in colour and widely available in the UK.
3. Monocrystalline solar is made up of a single silcon crystal and is considered purer than the previous 2 types. Generally it will be more efficient and more expensive than thin film or polycrystalline solar.
4. The premium type currently available is called hybrid or HIT (Heterojunction Incorporating Thin film) solar. This incorporates a monocrystalline material overlaid with a thin film layer. By placing one material into contact with the other, the power conversion efficiency can be greater than a single material. As a result a much higher efficiency can be achieved but this is the most expensive option.
So with all this variety which do I choose. Well, as always it depends on your requirements and budget. If roof space is not an issue and you want to maximise the the return on your investment then a budget priced polycrystalline system will meet your requirements.
If you want the best product available or the roof space in limited then maybe a hybrid, although more expensive, may be appropriate.
In this context the mono option could be seen as a mid-market, low risk product; reasonable effficiency for a reasonable price.
I would suggest that you get installers to quote you 2 or more options so you can compare prices and the expected solar output.
A word of warning though; even if low price is your goal, make sure that the installer and the product selected in MCS certified and make sure that the panels have a performance guarantee of at least 20 years at 80% efficiency.
More information about PV panels from YouGen
If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.
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