4 Different Types Of Solar Panels (Explained)

How do solar panels work?

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How Do Solar Panels Work?

The solar panel has become an emerging and viable form of alternative energy.

Using the sun as a source of energy has long been the dream of renewable energy advocates for hundreds of years and it’s more prevalent now than ever.

You’ve probably noticed as you drive along the highway that some businesses and an increasing number of residential homes have solar panels reflecting off the tops of their buildings.

They shine in the light as they harvest the abundance and almost limitless energy of the sun.

You’ve also probably noticed that all of these solar panels don’t always look the same!

These different solar panels all have different capabilities, efficiency levels, and installation costs.

So, what types of solar panels are there?

There are two traditional solar panels that are quite common, and two newer emerging technology.

Let’s dive in.

Traditional Solar Panels

The two traditional types of solar panels include polycrystalline solar panels and monocrystalline solar panels.

These two types of solar panels are defined by the way the solar panel cells are constructed.

Both have different costs and require various amounts of space to install on a roof.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels were the first type of solar panel to be implemented.

They’re rectangular and can be created by melting silicon into a mold.

Because of the manufacturing industry supporting polycrystalline solar panels, they become incredibly cost-effective.

Little silicon is wasted on the construction of these and thus they can be provided to the general public at much cheaper costs.

However, their downfall is their efficiency.

The polycrystalline cells won’t tolerate heat as well as their monocrystalline brothers.

This will reduce the amount of electricity generated by the panels and can significantly affect the amount of electricity you can harvest from solar energy.

This will affect the total cost of your power bill at the end of the month if you’re not harvesting enough electricity using these panels

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels came after the invention of the polycrystalline cells and provided a significant boost to efficiency levels.

This is because monocrystalline solar panels are made of more pure silicon and their cylindrical shape.

This type of panel is made by caving silicon ingots into wafers. Manufacturers will also smooth and round the cell edges to help produce more electricity.

Because they’re more efficient, you’ll need fewer of them to power your whole house.

They also last a longer time than polycrystalline power cells.

This means their warranties will be longer and you won’t have to worry about replacing these solar panels for a longer time.

If you plan on long-term use of whatever building you’re putting solar panels on, this can be the best option depending on how much electricity you can produce.

If you’re stuck between choosing between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panel cells, you must find your solar sun number score to evaluate how much potential your house or business has to generate solar electricity.

The major downside to this type of solar panel is the cost.

Because of the extra steps in manufacturing, you’ll end up paying a larger upfront cost to get these solar panels installed. 

Modern Technology For Modern Solar Panels

Both polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels have been owning the solar panel market for quite some time now, but that hasn’t stopped inventors from coming up with new types of solar panels.

In recent years, there have been two major advances in solar panel installation and material.

Solar Shingles

Solar shingles are the newest type of solar panel installation to hit the markets.

These shingles, similar to the other methods mentioned so far, will harness the solar energy provided by the sun from the roof of your building.

But, they do so without looking like an aesthetic eyesore on your roof.

These shingles can mimic architectural asphalt shingle roof to keep your home or business looking slick and clean while still providing plenty of electricity

They’re just as durable as traditional shingles so you won’t have to worry about them being a short-term investment or getting damaged easily. They withstand the elements all the same.

Solar shingles are a form of a solar panel, so you’ll still have to decide between the material that powers the solar power cell.

These are relatively new to buy, especially for traditional homeowners, but they can be a great way to keep your building aesthetically pleasing and still enjoy all the benefits of solar power.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels aren’t typically used for residential purposes, but they sometimes are.

They’re a newer material that solar cells are using.

It’s made of layers of semiconductor materials kept on a film as a surface. They’re incredibly flexible and significantly cheaper.

This makes them a great option for those with a limited amount of capital to spend on solar panels.

However, like most new and emerging technologies, thin-film solar panels come with their array of problems.

Because they use many different materials, and not all are the most efficient, this type of solar panel won’t produce as much electricity as crystalline solar panels.

They also require a significant amount of roof space to optimally use them.

On top of all this, they also degrade quicker than options so you’ll find yourself replacing them sooner rather than later.

This makes thin-film solar panels difficult to pitch to investors, but inventors and manufacturers are on the job.

They’re expected to become more competitive in upcoming years as researchers develop new ways to make this material last.

Types of Inverters for Solar Panels

Explaining the different types of solar panels wouldn’t be complete without distinctions being made for the types of inverters that are available for solar panels.

The inverter is what takes the direct current electricity that solar panels receive and converts it into alternating current electricity that can be used in homes and businesses.

There are three main types of solar inverters:

  • Intelligent hybrid inverters
  • Stand-alone inverters
  • Grid-tie inverters

Intelligent Hybrid Inverters

According to Solar Power World Online, an intelligent hybrid inverter, or smart inverter, has become a buzzword within the solar power industry.

What it means is that an inverter must-have digital architecture, bi-directional communications capability, and robust software infrastructure.

These inverters can send and receive messages quickly and share granular data stakeholders.

They also allow users to integrate their software into the application-programming-interface to allow for increased performance.

These types of inverters can help:

  • Lower the cost of energy
  • Increase energy production in the long-term
  • And reduce operating costs by eliminating the need for labor and materials.

They’re typically used for industrial needs.

Stand-alone Inverters

Stand-alone inverters draw direct current energy from batteries charged by the photovoltaic arrays. They’re designed for remote stand-alone applications.

These inverters use battery chargers to replenish the battery from an AC source.

This type of inverter is ideal for home systems, rural power, and sometimes even providing power to a small village that may be in a remote area.

Grid-tie Inverters

Grid-tie inverters are used in photovoltaic systems and are used to convert electricity from multiple solar panels. They’re ideal for someone using enough solar panels to create a system.

You’ll find that they are used between other local electrical power generators such as hydroelectric and wind turbines.

However, they’re an incredibly useful tool for those who have managed to create a system of solar panels to generate more electricity.

They’re even able to feed extra power that you make back into the grid instead of wasting the power you could be using.

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