Are you thinking about buying solar panels but unsure about which type to go for?
Solar panels come in all different shapes and sizes. Which one to choose depends on your specific requirements. How much power do you normally use in a day? What time of day do you consume the most energy? Do you want to install an entirely new system, or add a new element onto an existing one?
You’re probably feeling spoilt for choice, but not to worry – we’re here to make your life a bit easier.
Here is our list of Top 3 types of solar panels in Australia based on quality, performance, innovation and value.
These are the panels that kicked off the photovoltaic revolution. First dreamed up in the 1950s, monocrystalline panels are made up of a series of wafer-like cells cut from silicon and stacked on top of one another.
Up until just a few years ago, these were still the most popular panels on the market, though they have since given up first place to polycrystalline, which we’ll go into in just a moment.
Since monocrystalline panels are made from high-quality silicon, they have an exceptionally high level of performance, for example, beating thin film panels at a rate of four to one. Due to the way the panels are layered, they perform well in low-light conditions and offer a high energy yield per square foot.
All that functionality, however, comes at a cost. Monocrystalline panels tend to present a more expensive option, and it’s common for the panels to malfunction – or for there to be a full circuit breakdown – should the panel become obstructed in some way. The process of manufacturing these panels also produced a lot of waste, to some extent mitigating the “green” hallmark of solar energy.
These panels perform best in warm rather than hot weather, and experience a significant dropoff in performance as temperatures climb, making them problematic for many parts of Australia. However, some manufacturers – namely the world-famous SunPower – have found a way to make them work, boasting the highest efficiency levels available to homeowners today, from 15 to more than 22%, with its X22 series scoring a record-breaking efficiency of up to 22.8%, making it the best performing panel available on the market today.
Another fantastic monocrystalline option is produced by Q CELLS, a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest photovoltaic manufacturers in the world. Their panels use a unique cell technology the company has branded “Q.ANTUM”. Although the module efficiency of these panels (up to 19.9%) falls short of the levels offered by SunPower,Q CELLS panels clock the best performance in real weather conditions, even with low radiation intensity and on clear summer days.
Like monocrystalline, polycrystalline panels are made from high-quality silicon, only this time the silicon is poured into moulds to form the polycrystalline panels. This manufacturing process produces less waste and helps in creating an overall more cost-effective solar panel, while preserving many of the advantages of monocrystalline options.
The drawbacks? Polycrystalline panels are typically less efficient than their mono counterparts, and because they are constructed differently, require a greater surface area to generate the same electrical output.
Thin film solar panels are created by layering photovoltaic elements on top of one another. These layers are approximately 350 times smaller than those used in silicon panel – hence the name. The result is lightweight panels with excellent low-light performance that are easy to mass-produce, so can present a more affordable option, although this cost saving is somewhat mitigated by the price of necessary associated elements, such as cables, which are normally needed to accommodate the system.
There are, however, always some downsides. First and foremost, the efficiency of thin-film panels is, on average, around 9% – approximately half that of monocrystalline panels. Because these panels are, well, thin film, they also require far more space than silicon-based panels to produce a similar amount of energy, often making them an impractical option for residential purposes. They are also less durable than silicon options, again because of their fragile girth, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find long-standing warranty options for thin film.
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