What Types of Solar Panels Do You Need

As solar becomes one of the dominant renewable energy sources, solar panel technologies have evolved and converged to 3 major types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film.

In this article, we will outline the key differences between the 3 types of solar panel technologies and help you choose the right one for your applications.

What Are the 3 Main Types of Solar Panels?

Monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film solar technologies are fundamentally different in their physical structures, which lead to different appearances, efficiencies and costs.

Solar Panel TypeAppearancePerformanceCost
MonocrystallineGood appearance especially with full black designBest performance with >19% efficiencyExpensive
PolycrystallinePoor uniformity with pixellated blue cells on white backgroundOutdated technology with <17% efficiencyCheaper due to lower performance
Thin-filmGood appearance with even grey colourPoor with <17% efficiencyCheaper due to lower performance

To understand the reasons behind the differences in solar technologies, we will explain each technology one by one.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels used solar cells created from wafers cut from a single, pure silicon ingot grown by the Czochralski process.

The pure silicon composition allows electrons to move freely in the solar cell, resulting in a potential for higher efficiency and better performance.

monocrystalline solar panel mono solar cells
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Monocrystalline solar panels contain uniform, dark solar cells.

The monocrystalline solar cell industry currently enjoys the most research and development resources in next-generation technologies such as PERC, HJT, and TOPCon.

It is the leading solar cell technology, by production volume and efficiency, in the world today, and we expect the economies of scale will continue to reduce costs and improve performance.

High-efficiency mono solar modules can combine high-density module technologies such as multiple busbars, reflective ribbons and backsheet to push module efficiencies beyond 20%.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels used solar cells made from polycrystalline wafers cut from blocks of molten silicon, consist of melted silicon fragments, to create cells with metal flake appearance.

polycrystalline solar panels poly solar cells
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Polycrystalline solar panels characterised with blue solar cells.

The lighter blue hue of polycrystalline modules means they absorb less light than monocrystalline solar panels, resulting in lower efficiency.

Polycrystalline solar panels were once the dominant solar technology at the start of the century, due to the perfect balance of low cost and adequate performance.

In the last few years, massive investments in monocrystalline wafer production by upstream silicon wafer suppliers have irreversibly shifted the silicon solar cell industry to monocrystalline.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels are made by depositing thin layers of photovoltaic material (CdTe, CIGS or a-Si) on glass, plastic or metal.

The most common thin-film solar panels are made using two panes of glass sandwiching the photovoltaic film, and can reliably function without frames.

A commercial thin-film solar installation. (By Fieldsken Ken Fields - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The flexibility of the thin-film coating makes flexible solar possible, when deposited on flexible substrates, such as plastic.

Which Type of Solar Panel Do You Need?

The choice of which solar panel type to use in your installation depends on the application.

Since monocrystalline solar panels have higher efficiency, it is common to use mono solar modules in residential and commercial rooftops, where it is most important to maximise energy production in the limited space.

monocrystalline solar installation on a mansion in Sunshine Beach, Australia
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A monocrystalline solar installation on a mansion in Sunshine Beach, Australia.

The combination of frameless design and low cost makes thin-film solar panel perfect in building beautiful, large scale solar farms.

A utility-scale thin-film solar farm. (By Pacific Southwest Region from Sacramento, US - Solar Panels at Topaz Solar 5, Public Domain)

Are Monocrystalline Solar Panels the Best?

We believe the future of solar is in distributed energy generation on residential and commercial rooftops.

Since every rooftop has the same problem in the scarcity of space, we believe installing mono solar modules with the highest power density is the best way to increase the energy performance on any rooftop.

mono solar panel high power density
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Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest power output within the same area.

WINAICO's next generation of mono solar technology, GEMINI, combines the half-cell technology with reflective ribbons to improve solar module efficiency beyond 20.6%.

Now you know the differences of the most popular types of solar panels on the market, you are better equipped to purchase the right solar technology for your investment.

To learn more about how WINAICO solar technologies can help with your rooftop energy production, please get in touch with us.

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