So, How Do Solar Panels Work?
We discuss more in depth on how solar panels work here, but in general, a standard solar panel consists of several parts:
- A layer of photovoltaic cells
- A metal frame
- Glass casing
- Metal wiring
Solar Panels are comprised of many small photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaic cells are made of two layers of Silicon, dosed with either phosphorous or boron. Silicon is a semi-conductive nonmetal that allows for the conversion of sunlight into electricity. When light hits the silicon cell, it causes electrons to be set into motion, which initiates a flow of electrical current. This is known as the “photovoltaic effect.”
When light hits the top layer of the panel, electrons are displaced between the two layers and a flow of electricity is created. This electric field forces the drifting electrons to flow in a certain direction- towards the conductive metal plates that line the cell. This flow is known as an energy current, and the strength of the current determines how much electricity each cell can produce. Once the loose electrons hit metal plates, the current is then directed into wires, allowing the flow of electrons out of the panel.
Types of Solar Panels
There are three predominant types of solar panels on the market today. Silicon can come in a number of different cell structures:
- Single Cell (Monocrystalline)
- Multiple Cell (Polycrystalline)
- Amorphous (Non-crystalline)
What are Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Amorphous silicon cells?
Monocrystalline solar panels are produced from one large silicon block. These types of solar panels are the oldest and are the most developed. Since they are cut from a single source, Monocrystalline silicon cells are more efficient than polycrystalline and amorphous solar cells. Producing Monocrystalline wafers is more labor intensive, and consequently, more expensive to manufacture. These panel types have a more distinct black aesthetic and are often contain a sleek look.
Polycrystalline solar panels are a newer development and are made of silicon cells melted together. Many silicon molecules are melted and then refused together into the panel itself. Polycrystalline cells are less efficient than monocrystalline cells but are also slightly less expensive. These solar cells generally have a distinct blueish hue.
Amorphous silicon panels create flexible solar panel materials that are often used in thin solar panels. Amorphous silicon cells are nanocrystalline and instead are attached to a substrate like glass, plastic, or metal. This feature allows the panels to be lean and bendable, unlike the standard panel. Amorphous panels seem to be the least efficient and least expensive panel type.
Besides appearance and the manufacturing, cost and efficiency are important factors to consider when purchasing solar panels. Understanding the differences is important when getting solar panels that suite your needs and your home.
Interested in going solar? Contact us for a quote today!