Bountiful energy above our heads is always waiting for us to tap into it. It almost seems like science fiction when you think about it. But solar power is here, and it works.
Solar panels used to be expensive and inefficient. But modern technology and manufacturing allow the average homeowner to install solar panels on a budget. So, which types of solar panels should you install if you’re interested?
Believe it or not, there are multiple kinds of solar panel options. They all have similar scientific principles to function but in unique ways.
Keep reading as we discuss the solar panel options you can use to power your home.
What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?
Generally, there are two main types of solar panels. Both use the sun’s energy to create electricity but operate through very different methods. The two kinds are photovoltaic solar panels and solar thermal panels.
Photovoltaic Solar Panels
Photovoltaic solar panels, as the name implies, use light to create electricity. While it sounds like science fiction, the process is straightforward. Using an electron-dense material, photons from the sun knock these electrons off and send them into copper wires.
Photovoltaics is a very safe form of generating electricity. Aside from the heat caused by light rays, there is no pollution or threat to the operator. Any pollution associated with photovoltaics occurs during the manufacturing process.
Photovoltaic solar panels are highly efficient compared to other forms of green energy. While their efficiency is currently only about 20%, this is much better than the alternatives. It is also far safer than solutions like nuclear energy.
The main issue with photovoltaic solar panels is that they are costly to manufacture. They require rare earth minerals to produce and are not cheap to build. Generally speaking, the costs are still relatively high to purchase solar panels.
However, technology is advancing in this arena. Manufacturers are developing more efficient solar panels and producing them for less. The future is very bright, no pun intended, for photovoltaic solar panels.
If you are interested in installing solar panels, refer to this article now.
Thermal Solar Panels
Thermal solar panels function like most other methods of creating electricity. But, unlike their PV cousins, they do not harness the power of photons to knock electrons off another material. Instead, they heat water just like any other coal or nuclear plant.
Thermal solar panels use large mirrors to direct sunlight straight into a water-filled glass tube. This intense sun concentration boils the water and turns it into steam. This steam goes through a turbine, which generates electricity by spinning.
Think of it as a safe, minimally-polluting solution to standard electricity generation. Thermal solar panels do not emit pollution into the atmosphere when they boil the water. The water they use recycles, never being lost in evaporation.
However, these are not as effective as photovoltaic cells. It takes a lot of energy to boil water. The electricity produced at the end is not equivalent to a photovoltaic array.
Thermal solar panels have their uses but are not fit for home solar generation. Installing solar panels that use thermal technology is far more costly. They require a system that turns the panels to face the sun; the reflected light could blind you and your neighbors.
That said, there is no better way of caring for the environment than a system that uses steam and turbines without pollution.
What Are the Types of Solar Panels That Use Photovoltaic Energy?
Photovoltaic cells come in four varieties. This gives homeowners options for their home solar panels. These different solar panel styles all harness the sun’s energy by the same principle, albeit in more and less effective ways.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
As you can guess from the name, these use only a single crystal. These are wafers cut from a single pure crystal of silicon. This gives them a characteristic dark black color.
Monocrystalline solar panels last the longest, use their space most efficiently, and produce the most electricity. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Monocrystalline solar panels are wasteful in manufacturing and cost a lot to make.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Rather than using a single crystal, polycrystalline cells melt different types of crystals into a single mold. This makes for a more efficient use of materials and a cheaper manufacturing process overall.
Of course, that comes at a different type of cost. Polycrystalline panels may be cheaper in the long run, but their efficiency is very low compared to monocrystalline panels. Their low heat tolerance also makes them far less effective in hot climates.
PERC, the next generation of monocrystalline panels, or passivated emitter and rear cell panels. This technology is relatively new. It adds what scientists call a passivation layer behind the cell.
Think of this like a mirror that reflects lost photons back into the cell. It also inhibits electrons from their tendency to recombine. Last but not least, they capture a broader light wavelength, allowing for improved efficiency and lower heat.
Thankfully, PERC panels are not that much more expensive than monocrystalline. They provide much higher efficiency for a slight cost differential.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
These solar panels are exactly what the name says. However, they are thin, providing better adaptability to different circumstances. In addition, manufacturers are not limited to the standard square frames of solar panels.
Thin-film solar panels are generally relatively cheap to manufacture. The only downside to these solar panels is that they are less efficient than all other solar panel types.
Install Solar Panels Today
Solar panels are one of the most valuable forms of green energy today. Different types of solar panels allow homeowners to select a version that fits their budget and gives them the best efficiency. When you purchase solar panels, make sure you choose the right type of photovoltaic cells.
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