What are they, how to tell them apart?
In previous articles around solar energy we have noted there are at least 3 main manufacturing processes for producing solar panels. If you are thinking of installing solar or PV cell energy you need to have a basic understanding of the primary differences. A little knowledge can be the difference between making an informed decision and a choice that is going to end up costing you more in the long run.
Essentially, for our purposes today we will look at the two major types of panel construction: Mono crystalline and Poly crystalline. But first a recap. What is a Soar panel?
A solar panel s made up of many solar cells which in turn are created by covering an object with silicon. When treated this object or cell, then generates a small electric current when exposed to light. This current can be harnessed and stored in panes to provide an alternative electrical energy source.
To cover the object with silicon requires heat, lots of it, over 1500* Celsius, then allowing the silicon to cool to produce the crystals that are used in the manufacturing process. A slow cooling results in bigger crystals. Conversely, rapid cooling produces smaller ones. However, a slow cooling process is more difficult to achieve and so, the cost of production of large crystals is more than to produce smaller ones. The larger crystal is superior as its more efficient in absorbing solar energy which results in a better generation of electoral units per are of the panel. The bigger the panel, the greater the amount of current generated, the bigger the crystal, the more efficient the panel is. Mono crystalline panels are made form one [mono] crystal whereas poly crystalline panels are made form smaller crystals.
So, we can see that mono cry saline panels are superior in performance to poly crystalline panes, but because of the process they are more expensive. In reality this is something of a swings and roundabouts situation as, in the long run the difference in cost is balanced by the output. In other words there is very little difference when one starts to measure the cost to produce one watt of energy. In other aspects, there is little difference between mono and poly crystalline panels. However, to archive exactly the same power output, you would need bigger [or more] poly panels which then may cause issues with available space for panel mounting. Location palsy a role also, mono panels seem to be able to withstand greater temperatures than poly panels so if you know your location is going to be subject to intense or extreme heat, mono panes are the better choice, If in doubt, ask the manufacturer.
And the winner is?
Well for the average home user, neither really. If you are cramped for space and living in an area known for extreme temperatures then mono crystalline solar panels would be the best choice.
What is more important is the manufacturing process and the grade of silicon used , obviously the higher grade of silicon used, the more efficiency and longer lifespan you can expect, regardless of poly or mono. It is conceivable that a high quality poly panel may be more expensive and efficient than a cheaper mono panel simply because of the manufacturing process and materials.
In conclusion, like most things in life. One gets what one pays for, don't be tempted into buying lesser quality panels just to save a little money, remember, solar panels have a 30+ lifespan, so a few hundred extra up front is going to seem like peanuts 20 or so years later.
You might also find: How are solar panels used? an interesting and useful article.
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