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What is the Best Type of Solar Panel?

When it comes to PV technology, monocrystalline reigns supreme.

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George Duval
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Solar panels are exploding in popularity, and so several types of PV panels have made their way onto the market. They all have their pros and cons, and some may best fit your needs more than others. But is there a solar panel out there that is objectively the best? We think so. Look no further than the monocrystalline solar panel.

Monocrystalline solar panels are the best solar panels on the market today. With efficiencies around 20% to 23%, they beat out other types of PV panels by a wide margin. The higher efficiency means you need fewer panels to reach your desired output. The sleek, black design is also considered more aesthetically pleasing. But remember, the higher quality means mono-si panels fetch a higher price than other modules.

Monocrystalline panels are widely considered to be the best commercially available solar panels. Source: Pixabay

What Are Monocrystalline Solar Panels?

Monocrystalline solar panels can be distinguished by their dark black solar cells overlain with metal gridlines. Even though they are considered to be the best solar panels on the market today, they’re also the most expensive. They are more efficient than their counterparts, reaching efficiencies of 20% to 23%. This means you need fewer mono-Si panels to produce a set amount of electricity, and your PV system will take up less space.

Monocrystalline solar panels can be contrasted with polycrystalline solar panels. Poly-si panels are blue in appearance, with a flaky, metallic finish. They aren’t as efficient as mono-si panels, with efficiencies of around 15% to 20%. They are cheaper, though you will need more to generate a set amount of power, meaning they take up more space.

Read: What Are the Different Types of Solar Panels?

Why are Monocrystalline the Best Type of Panels?

So what gives mono-si panels their edge? The secret lies in the way they’re manufactured. Monocrystalline solar panels are made using the Czochralski Method, where a seed crystal is pulled from molten silicon, creating a large boule. This boule has a single, uninterrupted crystal lattice. The silicon crystal is then cut into shape and sliced into thin wafers, which become the base of the solar cell. Once the solar panels are put to work, the uniform crystal lattice allows the electrons to flow through the semiconductor uninterrupted, creating a high-efficiency conversion from sunlight to electricity.

Comparatively, polycrystalline solar panels are made using a similar process, except already existing silicon crystals are melded together to form a larger composite crystal. This results in a fragmented crystal lattice, where electrons can’t flow as smoothly as with a mono-si panel.

Monocrystalline solar panels can generate more electricity per area and need less space to generate a set amount of power. Granted, the higher quality makes them more expensive. The price is something to take into account if you’re thinking of investing in a PV system, as both cost and space are significant factors when installing solar panels.

Longevity is another point towards monocrystalline panels. They have a longer lifespan than other types of panels and last about 25 to 30 years, sometimes even longer. If you plan on having your solar panels for decades to come, mono-si is the way to go.

PERC Panels

All of the best mono-si solar cells today are manufactured with PERC technology. PERC stands for Passivated Emitter Rear Contact. These solar cells are equipped with extra layers on the rear, which help reflect unabsorbed light back towards the semiconductor. This gives the light another chance to be absorbed, raising the efficiency of the solar cell.

Bifacial Solar Panels

Bifacial solar panels are a type of monocrystalline panel that can collect light on both sides. Whereas normal solar panels place the solar cell against an aluminum frame, bifacial solar panels are set entirely within glass. The design exposes the silicon semiconductor on both sides, allowing the solar panel to capture even more light.

Flexible Solar Panels

Mono-si panels can also be flexible. Flexible monocrystalline panels consist of solar cells encased in plastic sheets, allowing the modules to be attached to vehicles, boats, and tents. The flexibility allows for a level of versatility that isn’t possible with rigid solar panels, although the plastic casing leaves them more vulnerable to damage. In addition, you’ll get the full power of monocrystalline solar cells without settling for other types of thin-film panels, which are less efficient.

Mono-si panels are distinguishable by their dark color and metal gridlines. Source: Pixabay

Should I get Monocrystalline Solar Panels?

Realistically, you should get solar panels that fit your needs, whether or not they’re mono-si. PV systems are a long-term investment, so it’s wise to assess what you need before making a purchase. Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking about buying monocrystalline panels.

Cost

Mono-si panels are the most expensive panels out there, so they cost significantly more than other panel types. Be prepared to take on a significant upfront cost if you decide to install a monocrystalline PV system. On the other hand, they will generate more electricity in the long run, which can pay off if you live in an area with a generous net metering policy.

Energy Use

Knowing how much you’re going to power with your PV panels is a must. Are you powering a whole home? Or just a few appliances? If you just need a few watts for a tool shed, you can save money upfront by settling for poly-si.

Space

Mono-si panels take up a smaller area per unit of electricity, which is a big help if you’re short on space. If you want to generate ample power in a limited area, monocrystalline panels can get the job done.

Time Horizon

Are your solar panels going to be a long-term investment? Monocrystalline panels are longer lasting, with lifespans between 25 and 30 years. Some even claim their panels have lasted 35 to 40 years. Mono-si panels also have better warranties, usually covering 25 years with a guaranteed level of performance.

Aesthetics

Monocrystalline panels are touted as more aesthetically pleasing compared to other types, especially polycrystalline. That said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and you may like the blue pattern effect on poly-si panels more than the solid black monocrystalline panels. But for aesthetics, many recommend thin-film solar, as the low profile can render them almost invisible when installed on a rooftop.

Brand

Most of the top brands sell monocrystalline solar panels, and reputable brands will also offer warranties and have dedicated solar contractors to help with your installation and maintenance. Do your research before settling on a specific brand, as the specs may slightly differ.

Read: Top Solar Panel Brands of 2021

Multijunction Solar Cells

There is one type of PV technology that beats mono-si panels by a wide margin. Multijunction solar cells aren’t commercially available, but they’re the highest efficiency solar cells in existence. Whereas most solar cells contain only one type of semiconductor, multijunction solar cells stack multiple semiconductor materials onto a single solar cell. This gives the solar cells the ability to absorb more wavelengths of light, boosting the efficiency as high as 45%. Multijunction solar cells are also coupled with concentrator PV technology. These are small lenses that focus the light onto the solar cell to increase the power output.

Multijunction solar cells can’t be purchased for civilian use, unless you’re willing to shell out some serious cash. Instead, these high-powered PV panels are mainly used on spacecraft, where they can harness the unfiltered energy from the sun to power their astronomical research.

Multijunction solar panels are typically used in outer space. Source: WikiImages

Final Thoughts

Monocrystalline solar panels are unequivocally the best all-around type of solar panel. They offer performance, longevity, durability, and aesthetics. They may be more expensive, but you’ll be paying for quality. In the end, making the investment in better panels will give a bigger payoff in the long run. Monocrystalline panels benefit from a more refined manufacturing process, which creates a uniform crystal structure. This allows the electricity to flow through the panel without obstructions. Standard mono-si panels come equipped with PERC technology, helping boost efficiency. And there are also bifacial panels if you want a setup that can capture light on two sides. While there’s a wide variety of solar panels on the market today, the versatility and quality of monocrystalline panels remain unmatched.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best type of solar panels?

Monocrystalline solar panels are by far the best type of PV panel. Mono-si panels are recognizable by their dark black face, which is crisscrossed by several metal gridlines. They have the highest power output, usually having efficiencies over 20%. They’re also durable and can last over 25 years.

Why are monocrystalline solar panels the best type?

Monocrystalline panels are made using one large silicon crystal. This crystal is sliced into wafers, which make the base of the solar cell’s semiconductor material. The uniform crystal lattice allows electrons to easily move through the solar cell, maintaining a high efficiency. This stands in contrast to polycrystalline solar cells, which are made of several different crystals.

Who makes monocrystalline solar panels?

Mono-si panels are made by all of the largest solar companies, including SunPower, Panasonic, and LG.

What are the other types of solar panels?

Polycrystalline solar cells are similar to monocrystalline, but the lack of a uniform crystal structure makes them less efficient. There are also several types of thin-film solar panels, all of which use a different kind of semiconductor material. While thin-film panels aren’t as efficient, they have a low profile and higher aesthetic value.

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Author Bio

George Duval is a writer and expert in sustainability and environmental studies. After graduating with a B.A. in Sustainability from Florida International University, George began dedicating his life to researching new ways to make the world a greener place. His expertise ranges from organic gardening, to renewable energy, to eating plant-based diets. He is currently writing and editing for a number of publications, most of which focus on the environment.

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