As part of my ongoing solar panel project, I have begun to shop for more solar panels. The choices on the market today are limitless due to the United States government tax credit program for home built solar arrays. As a result of this, you need to do a little research before throwing down your hard earned American dollar. In this article, I am going to briefly describe the benefits and detriments to using Polycrystalline Solar Panels. Understanding the differences between components of individual solar panels will help you design a solar power system that suits your future plans for making profit off of the technology or just living off the grid.
Are Polycrystalline solar modules cheaper than Amporphous Modules?
How long do Polycrystalline solar panels last compared to the competition?
Read On To Find Out!
Polycrystalline solar panels are made by cutting a piece of silicon, growing a ribbon of crystalline then cutting it into pieces or simply growing the material on the solar panel surface. Each of these manufacturing methods have their own pros and cons but rest assured the end result is still considered a Polycrystalline solar cell. The individual cell is up to 350 microns thick, a rather large wafer of pure silicon. Once the individual cells have been placed on a framed surface, they are hermetically sealed underneath a high transmission glass surface. The typical manufacturer warranty is at least 25 years, today. They yield a 11-16% efficiency rating. To be honest, there is one problem, heat. Since these panels are made from deep black silicon material, they absorb a wide spectra of solar energy. Only a portion of this energy is converted to electricity. The remainder is converted to thermal energy and they can reach temperatures exceeding 200 degrees Celsius in full sun.
Monocrystalline Vs Polycrystalline
Monocrystalline solar panels offer almost the same efficiency rating, 11-15%, and also suffer the same problems with heat. The only real difference is that since they are not necessarily made out of pure silicon crystals, they cost less to manufacture. The disadvantage of this is that they can be easily mistaken for amporphous modules so their resale value is not always as high as polycrystalline.
Polycrystalline Modules Have A Higher Conversion Efficiency Than Amporphous Modules
Remember how polycrystalline panels use 350 microns of pure silicon? Amporphous panels use 1 micron thick layers of silicon. Amporphous solar panels can only achieve a 5-8% efficiency rating but do not get as hot as their counterparts because they use less silicon. From a long-term perspective, sunlight degrades these panels at an alarming rate because of their very thin layer of silicon material. For this reason amporphous is often refered to as thin film solar panels by marketing companies. The trade off means they are cheaper to manufacture and solar neophiles are often duped into paying more than they should for them. You may have seen advertisements for these products showing long foldable sheets. The buyer should be warned that they only put out a fraction of the power that the traditional polycrystalline products can do.
From my own product testing, I used two Powerfilm WeatherPro 7.2Vdc 200Ma Flexible Solar Panels on the hood of 2002 Jeep TJ to boost the charge of my battery. I used silicon sealant to create an air tight bond around the corners of the panels and protect them from Louisiana heat and humidity. After six months of use the panels were already developing bands of white discolored patches on their surface. At this point they were no longer generating electricity and I removed them from the hood of my black Jeep TJ. My point is that, you should not fall prey to the marketing surrounding products like this. For now, stick with the traditional solar panels on the market and let time reveal the short comings of these newer products.
Longevity Of Polycrystalline Modules
Due to their crystalline structure, Polycrystalline Modules are going to last longer than any other type of solar panel on the market today. However, an important exception to this rule, is the need for proper ventilation during intense sunlight exposure. If the panels are not adequately cooled then they can run the risk of damage to their mounting equipment or any other attached parts that are not able to handle the high heat.
I am leaning towards polycrystalline technology mostly because of their attractive appearance. If I should ever need to resale these panels, buyers on Ebay will instantly know how they are made due to their distinctive look. Solar panels are an intriguing investment for this reason as well. Today on Ebay, you just cannot purchase a used solar panel in very good condition for less than 95% of retail value. As a result, I feel better about my desire to go solar because I know that I can easily recover my initial investment.
If you liked this article, consider reading the other parts of this Solar Project series by clicking on the links below:
How to Generate Your Own Electricity with Cheap Solar Panels – Part 1
How to Install a 50 Watt Solar Panel – Solar Power Project Part 2
How Does a MPPT Solar Controller Work? Solar Power Project Part 3
Increasing Inverter Capacity With The Black & Decker PI750AB – Solar Project Part 4
Recharging Your Citizen Eco Drive Solar Powered Watch
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