Types of Solar PV Panels
There are numerous different types of solar PV panels with differing characteristics, costs and benefits. But there are just 3 main options available to consumers in the UK.
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There are two different types of crystalline cells - monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells. Monocrystalline cells are cut from a single crystal of silicon, like a slice of crystal. To the eye it will have a smooth texture and you can physically see the thickness of the slice. These are the most efficient but the most expensive to produce out of the three options. They are rigid and have to be mounted in solid frames for protection.
Polycrystalline cells, also known as multicrystalline cells, are a slice cut from a block of silicon that consists of a large number of crystals. They have a speckled reflective appearance and like monocrystalline cells you can see the thickness of the slice. They aren't quite as efficient as monocrystalline cells, but they are cheaper to manufacture. They also need to be mounted in rigid frames for protection.
Amorphous cells are made by having a thin film of non crystalline silicon on a wide choice of surfaces. Due to the amorphous (formless) nature of the thin layer, it means it's flexible. And if added to a flexible material the whole solar panel itself can be flexible. That means there is a little bit more variety of where you can place them on your house.
Amorphous cells are less expensive to produce than crystalline cells, but are also less efficient. In fact, their power output reduces over time, particularly during the first few months. The quoted output of an amorphous panel should be that produced once the output has stabilised after these initial months.
Hybrid cells combine the technologies of crystalline and amorphous cells. As a result they don't cost much more to produce than a traditional crystalline cell. Each cell consists of a layer of crystalline silicon and at least one layer of thin film. According to the Energy Saving Trust, over the lifespan of an installed system these cells offer the best value for money based on savings on your bills against the capital cost.
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