There has been a considerable push for renewable energy resources on all fronts. This has led to a surge in solar energy use in the last decade alone, as much as 50%. In addition, most governments worldwide support the transition to clean energy with federal support and tax credits.
For example, with the Solar Panel Rebate, the upfront cost of solar system installation is reduced. The cost of the solar panels is subsidised by a rebate of approximately $447 per kW installed.
It makes sense to review solar panels, the backbone of the solar industry. Solar panels come in different shapes and sizes. The one you choose depends on your requirements, energy consumption, and the time of energy demand.
What is a Solar Panel?
Solar panels collect solar energy from the sun and convert it to electricity. They comprise individual solar cells made from layers of boron, silicon, and phosphorus. The silicon layer acts as a semiconductor, with the boron layer providing a positive charge and the phosphorus layer providing a negative charge.
The solar panels use the photovoltaic effect to harness usable energy from solar power. Hence, they also hold the name photovoltaic panels or PV panels. A typical solar panel has close to 60, 72 or 90 individual solar cells.
Different Types of Solar Panel
There are three major types of solar panels in Australia. Most of the solar panels fit into one of the three types. They vary in manufacturing, appearance, costs, and performance. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.
First introduced in the 1950s, the monocrystalline panels kicked off the solar revolution and are the original photovoltaic panels. They consist of a series of wafer-like silicon cells stacked on top of one another.
Monocrystalline is made from high-quality silicone and have exceptionally high performance. In addition, the way the solar cells are layered allows the panels to perform well in low light conditions with a high energy yield per square foot. As a result, the efficiency ratings for monocrystalline panels range between 17% to 22%.
On the downside, the monocrystalline panels tend to malfunction often, especially if the panel is obstructed in some way. The panels work the best in warm weather rather than hot climatic conditions, which is a problem in Australia. However, when the temperatures climb, there’s a significant drop in performance.
A considerable amount of silicon is wasted in the production of monocrystalline panels, sometimes as much as 50%. This negates the fact that it’s “Green”.
Polycrystalline panels are structurally similar to monocrystalline panels in the sense that they are made from high-quality silicone. However, they come from two different silicon crystals. In the case of polycrystalline panels, the silicon is poured into moulds to form polycrystalline cells.
There’s hardly any wastage during the manufacturing process, making the panels much more cost-effective while maintaining the many advantages of the monocrystalline panels. It also brings about a distinctive square shape.
On the downside, the polycrystalline panels aren’t as effective as their monocrystalline counterparts. They require much more surface area to generate the same output with an energy rating of 15% to 17%.
Polycrystalline panels also have low heat and light tolerance, therefore, having a shorter lifespan.
Photovoltaic elements are layered on top of one another to create thin-film solar panels. The layers are 350 times smaller than a silicon panel, giving it its name. These panels are lightweight, making it easy for solar installers to carry and secure them onto the rooftops. They are also easy to mass-produce, making them an affordable option. However, the offset cost is mitigated by the price of the accompanying elements.
Thin-film panels have many downsides, the first being efficiency. They have an energy-efficient rating of only 9%. Few high-quality panels may have 10%-13%, but that’s it. In addition, they require much more space to create the same energy output as that of monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Thin-film panels are also fragile, making them unusable for residential purposes.