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How do solar panels work?

Solar panels are devices that convert sunlight into electricity. They are made up of many small units called photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are usually made of silicon or other semi-conductive materials. When sunlight hits the surface of a solar panel, the photons (particles of light) are absorbed by the PV cells, which create an electric field across the layers of the material. This causes electrons (negatively charged particles) to move from one layer to another, creating a flow of electric current. This process is known as the photovoltaic effect, which was first discovered in 1839 by French physicist Edmond Becquerel. The electricity generated by solar panels can be used directly or stored in batteries for later use.

Solar Panel Cell Count And Efficiency

Solar panels are devices that convert sunlight into electricity. They are made up of many small units called photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are usually made of silicon or other semi-conductive materials. The efficiency of solar panels depends on how well they can convert sunlight into electricity, which varies depending on the type and quality of the PV cells.

There are three main types of solar panel cells: polycrystalline, monocrystalline and thin-film. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the best one for your needs depends on several factors, such as cost, space, performance and aesthetics.

In this blog post, I will explore the main characteristics and differences of these three types of solar panel cells, and help you decide which one is the most suitable for your home, business or community.

The Three Main Types Of Solar Panels

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline panels are the oldest and most developed type of solar panels. They are made from single-crystal silicon solar cells, which means that each cell is cut from a pure and continuous piece of silicon crystal. To make these solar cells, pure silicon is melted and grown into cylindrical ingots, which are then sliced into thin wafers. During this process, the cell edges are trimmed and rounded, to reduce the surface area and increase the efficiency of the cells. This also gives the monocrystalline cells a distinctive appearance, with four rounded corners and a dark colour.

Monocrystalline panels are considered to be premium panels, as they offer the highest efficiency and durability among the three types of solar panels. They can convert up to 22% of sunlight into electricity, which is higher than polycrystalline or thin-film panels. They also have a longer lifespan, lasting up to 25 years or more. Moreover, monocrystalline panels have a sleek and uniform look, with a black or dark blue colour. They are ideal for anyone who wants a high-performance and aesthetically pleasing solar panel.

Some of the brands that manufacture monocrystalline panels are JA Solar, Longi Solar and QCELL. You can compare their products and prices online or contact us for more information.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline panels are also known as “multi-crystalline” panels, as they are made from multiple silicon crystals. They are often considered the mid-range option, as they offer lower efficiency and durability than monocrystalline panels, but higher than thin-film panels.

Polycrystalline panels are made by melting raw silicon fragments together, and pouring them into a square mould to form wafers. Unlike monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels do not require cutting the edges of the wafers, which reduces the material waste and the production cost. However, this also means that the wafers have many boundaries between the different crystals, which impede the flow of electrons and lower the efficiency of the cells. The wafers are then assembled together to form a polycrystalline panel.

Polycrystalline panels can convert up to 18% of sunlight into electricity, which is lower than monocrystalline panels, but higher than thin-film panels. They also have a shorter lifespan, lasting up to 20 years or less. Polycrystalline panels have a distinctive appearance, with a blue colour and a speckled texture. They look blue and speckled because of the way the sunlight reflects off the different crystals in each cell.

Polycrystalline panels are suitable for anyone who wants a more affordable and eco-friendly solar panel, but does not mind sacrificing some efficiency and performance. They are also ideal for places that have plenty of space and sunlight.

Some of the brands that manufacture polycrystalline panels are Canadian Solar, Trina Solar and Jinko Solar. You can compare their products and prices online or contact us for more information.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels are different from monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, as they are thin, flexible and low-profile. This is because they are made from very thin layers of semiconducting materials, such as silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide. These materials are deposited on a substrate, such as glass, plastic or metal, to form a thin film.

Thin-film solar panels have several advantages over crystalline solar panels. They are lightweight, easy to install, and adaptable to various shapes and surfaces. They also perform better in low-light and high-temperature conditions, and have a lower environmental impact due to less material waste.

However, thin-film solar panels also have some drawbacks. They have lower efficiencies and power capacities than crystalline solar panels, which means they need more space to produce the same amount of electricity. They also degrade faster than crystalline solar panels, which reduces their lifespan and warranty. Moreover, some of the materials used in thin-film solar panels, such as cadmium telluride, are toxic and require careful handling and disposal.

Thin-film solar panels are suitable for applications that require flexibility, portability, or aesthetics. For example, they can be integrated into building materials, such as shingles or roof tiles, to create a seamless look. They can also be used for off-grid systems, such as portable chargers or camping equipment.

So Which Solar Panel Is Best For You?

There is no definitive answer to which solar panel is the best, as different types of solar panels have different advantages and disadvantages. The best solar panel for your project depends on several factors, such as your budget, space, location, and preferences.

Polycrystalline solar panels are the most affordable and eco-friendly option, but they have lower efficiency and durability than monocrystalline solar panels. They are suitable for residential properties that have enough roof space and sunlight, and do not mind the blue and speckled appearance of the panels.

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most efficient and durable option, but they are also the most expensive and wasteful. They are ideal for residential properties that have limited roof space or need higher power output, and prefer the sleek and uniform look of the panels.

Thin-film solar panels are the most flexible and lightweight option, but they have the lowest efficiency and lifespan. They are rarely used for domestic properties, but they can be useful for commercial or listed buildings that require portability, aesthetics, or integration with building materials.

If you are still unsure which type of solar panel you should use for your solar project, NXTGEN Energy can help you. If you live in the UK and would like more information, get in touch on 01268 928 690 or click the ‘Enquire Now’ button below. Our team of solar experts are always happy to help you find the best solar solution for your project.

Frequently Asked Questions about Solar Panels

Is it worth getting solar panels in the UK?

The short answer is yes! Solar panels can cut almost 70% off your energy bills, and that proportion is growing as energy bills rise. No wonder solar panel installations have risen by over 45% in the last three years, and shot up by over 80% in the last year alone.

How many solar panels are needed to power an average house in the UK?

1-2 bedroom property, 8 solar panels generating about 1,800 kWh a year.
3 bedroom property, 12 solar panels generating about 2,800 kWh kWh a year.
4-5 bedroom property, 16 solar panels generating about 3,700 kWh kWh a year.

How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves UK?

The answer depends on how much you pay for the solar panels, how much your electricity would otherwise cost, how much green energy the panels make from the sunshine you get, and whether you have solar batteries installed or not. The average payback period for solar PV systems is coming down and can now be under 10 years depending on your solar PV system and how many solar panels you have installed.

How long do solar panels last?

The solar industry standard for most solar panels’ lifespans is between 25 to 30 years, but with proper care and cleaning they can last much longer. Most reputable manufacturers offer production warranties for 25 years or more. The average break even point for solar panel energy savings occurs six to 10 years after installation.

Do solar panels increase home value in the UK?

Whilst there is no hard and fast rule as to how much value solar panels can add to the overall value of your property, suggestions range from 4.1% to 14% on average and they are certainly unlikely to detract from the value of your home, even if they aren’t the most attractive roof feature visually.

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