Monocrystalline Solar Panels – 18% Efficeincy (Best)
Monocrystalline solar panels are made from large crystals of silicon. These types of solar panels are the most efficient in absorbing sunlight and converting it into electricity. The panels are significantly better in lower light conditions than other types of solar panels and hence are the most favoured in modern installations of renewable energy products. With the price of Monocrystalline panels decreasing all the time as production levels increase and the technology becomes more readily available, Monocrystalline solar panels are the obvious choice. With their robust light range and maximum available efficiency, fewer panels are needed to achieve maximum results.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels – 15% Efficeincy (Middle of the Range)
Polycrystalline solar panels look a lot like shattered glass as they are made up of smaller pieces of silicone crystals, differing from the Monocrystalline panels which are made up of large silicone pieces. Polycrystalline solar panels are slightly less efficient (3% less) than the monocrystalline solar panels and less expensive to produce due to being able to use smaller pieces of silicone in production. Instead of one large crystal, this type of solar panel consists of multiple amounts of smaller silicon crystals. The use of the smaller crystals is the reason for Polycrystalline panels being less efficient and also less efficient in lower light environments such as when it is overcast.
Amorphous Solar Panels – 10% Efficeincy (Thin Film)
Amorphous solar panels consist of a film made from molten silicon that is spread directly across large plates of stainless steel. These types of solar panels have lower efficiency than the other two types of solar panels, and the cheapest to produce as they use the smallest amount of silicone. One advantage of amorphous solar panels over the other two is that they are shadow protected. That means that the solar panel continues to charge while part of the solar panel cells are in a shadow. These work great on boats and other types of transportation but are not generally used in household installations as they have the lowest efficiency and household panels are usually installed without obstruction making the “shadow” element insignificant.
Solar Panel Efficiency
Solar Panel efficiency is the percentage of solar energy that is captured and converted into electricity. It’s difficult to give an exact number, so the numbers above are an average percentage of efficiency that the different types of solar panels output. Thin film solar panels will generally degrade approximately 1% each year, whereas crystalline panels degrade at approximately 0.5%.
This essentially means that if you are using Amorphous (10%) panels they will have a useful lifespan of about 10 years, whilst Polycrystalline (15%) panels will last for a minimum of 30 years and the Monocrystalline (18%) panels have a minimum lifetime of about 36 years.
These figures are estimates and every scenario is different, the use of solar panels over a prolonged period of time is common place, and the payoff and benefit largely outweighs the need to replace the solar panels every couple of decades. Not just form a cost saving point of view, but also from the environment point of view.