Our sun is not only a trulyA�reliable and lasting energy sourceA�but also a veryA�cost-effective and efficientA�one, if the chosen types of solar panels and the environment are perfectly matched to one another. Such promising prospects have grown in an industry that has put a lot of effort into developing efficient techniques. This is toA�generate, use, and store the suna��s energyA�by using different types ofA�solar panelsA�and converting the sunlight into valuable electricity.
Only few people are aware of the different technologies that exist on the market for solar energy. The most popular such asA�solar thermalA�andA�solar water heating.
Whereas these alternatives to the classical types of solar panels are mainly used for heating water, the following paragraphs give a more detailed introduction to the different types of solar panels that are used for generating green electricity. Several decades of research, work, and development have lead to theA�wide range of different types of solar panelsA�now available on the market for solar panels.
To give a broader overview, Solarmuda has put together some helpful information about theA�most commonA�andA�special types of solar panels.
Different types of solar panels serve different needs and purposes. For a quick and general overview, check out ourA�ultimate solar-panel guide, for aA�detailed descriptionA�about the different types of solar panels, keep reading.
How to Categorise the Different Types of Solar Panels
Given that sunlight can be used differently whether on Earth or in space points to the fact thatA�location, itself, is aA�significant factorwhen it comes toA�choosing one of the types of solar panels over another.
Distinguishing between different types of solar panels often means differentiating betweenA�single-junctionsA�andA�multi-junctionsA�solar panelsa��orA�first, second, or third generations. Single-junction and multi-junctions differ in the number of layers on the solar panel that will observe the sunlight, whereas theA�classification by generationA�focusses on theA�materials and efficiencyA�of the different types of panels.
1st Generation Solar Panels
These are theA�traditional types of solar panelsA�made of monocrystalline silicon or polysilicon and areA�most commonly usedA�in conventional surroundings.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI)
This type of solar panels (made of monocrystalline silicon) isA�the purest one. You can easily recognise them from theA�uniform dark lookA�and theA�rounded edges. The silicona��s high purity causes this type of solar panel has one of the highestA�efficiency rates, with the newest onesA�reaching above 20%.
Monocrystalline panelsA�have a high power output, occupy less space, and last the longest. Of course, that also means they are the most expensive of the bunch. Another advantage to consider is that they tend to be slightly less affected by high temperatures compared to polycrystalline panels.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels (Poly-SI)
You can quickly distinguish these panels because this type of solar panels has squares, its angles are not cut, and it hasA�a blue, speckled look. They areA�made by melting raw silicon, which is aA�faster and cheaperA�process than that used for monocrystalline panels.
This leads to a lower final price but also lowerA�efficiency(around 15%), lower space efficiency, and aA�shorter lifespanA�since they are affected by hot temperatures to a greater degree. However, the differences between mono- and polycrystalline types of solar panels are not so significant and the choice will strongly depend on your specific situation. The first option offers a slightly higher space efficiency at a slightly higher price but power outputs are basically the same.
2nd Generation Solar Panels
These cells are different types ofA�thin film solar cellsA�and are mainly used for photovoltaic power stations, integrated in buildings or smaller solar power systems.
Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)
If you are looking for aA�less expensiveA�option, you might want to look into thin-film. Thin-film solar panels are manufactured by placing one or more films of photovoltaic material (such as silicon, cadmium or copper) onto a substrate. These types of solar panels are theA�easiest to produceA�and economies of scale make them cheaper than the alternatives due to less material being needed for its production.
They are alsoA�flexiblea��which opens a lot ofA�opportunities for alternative applicationsa��and is less affected by high temperatures. The main issue is that they take up a lot of space, generally making themA�unsuitable for residential installations. Moreover, they carry theA�shortest warrantiesA�because their lifespan is shorter than the mono- and polycrystalline types of solar panels. However, they can be a good option to choose among the different types of solar panels where a lot of space is available.
Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell (A-Si)
Have you ever used a solar powered pocket calculator? Yes? Then you have definitely seen these types of solar panels before. The amorphous silicon solar cell is among the different types of solar panels, the one that is used mainly in such pocket calculators. This type of solar panel uses aA�triple layered technology, which is the best of the thin film variety.
Just to give a brief impression of what a�?thina�? means, in this case, wea��re talking about a thickness ofA�1 micrometreA�(one millionth of a metre). With only 7%A�efficiency rate,A�these cells areA�less effectivethan crystalline silicon onesa��that have an efficiency rate of circa 18%a��but the advantage is the fact that the A-Si-Cells are relatively low in cost.
3rd Generation Solar Panels
3rd generation solar panels include a variety of thin film technologies but most of them are still in theA�research or development phase. Some of them generate electricity by using organic materials, others use inorganic substances (CdTe for instance).
Biohybrid Solar Cell
The Biohybrid solar cell is one of the types of panels, that is still in the research phase. It has been discovered by an expert team at Vanderbilt University. The idea behind the new technology is to take advantage of theA�photosystem 1A�and thusA�emulate the natural process of photosynthesis. In case you want to learn moreA�about how the biohybrid solar cell works in detail, read more about it inA�the American Journal of Optics and Photonics. It explains more detailed how these cells work. Many of the materials being used in this cell are similar to the traditional methods, but only by combining the multiple layers of photosystem 1, the conversion from chemical to electrical energy becomes much more effective (up to 1000 times more efficient than 1st generation types of solar panels).
Cadmium Telluride Solar Cell (CdTe)
Among the collection of different types of solar panels, this photovoltaic technique usesA�Cadmium Telluride, which enables the production of solar cells at relatively low cost and thus aA�shorter payback timeA�(less than a year). Of all solar energy technologies, this is the one requiring the least amount of water for production. Keeping the short energy payback time in mind,A�CdTe solar cells will keep your carbon footprint as low as possible. The only disadvantage of using Cadmium Telluride is its characteristic of beingA�toxic, if ingested or inhaled. In Europe especially, this is one of the greatest barriers to overcome, as many people are very concerned about using the technology behind this type of solar panel.
Concentrated PV Cell (CVP and HCVP)
Concentrated PV cells generate electrical energy just as conventional photovoltaic systems do. ThoseA�multi-junctionA�types of solar panels have anA�efficiency rate up to 41%, which, among all photovoltaic systems, is the highest so far.
The name of such CVP cells is related to what makes them so efficient, compared to other types of solar panels:A�curved mirror surfaces, lenses. Sometimes evenA�cooling systemsA�are used to bundle the sun rays and thus increase their efficiency.
By this means, CVP cells have become one ofA�the most efficientA�types of solar panels, with a high performance and efficiency rate of up to 41%. What remains is the fact, that such CVP solar panels can only be as efficient if they face the sun in a perfect angle. In order to reach such high efficiency rates, aA�solar trackerA�inside the solar panel is responsible forA�following the sun.