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What are the Different Types of Solar Panels?—A Complete Guide

Sun is the ultimate source of energy; one minute of its energy is enough to light up the whole world for the day. Utilizing sunlight for electrical energy purposes is completely cost-effective and efficient. Society is moving towards renewable energy sources because of economical expenditure and long-lasting service life. The installation of a solar panel system is likewise not a great hassle than the installation of a dam or thermal station.

Solar plates are the main functional and basic part of the PV system, responsible for energy production. They capture sunlight and convert it into electrical energy, this happens due to the solar cells present in the panel. The solar cells are the functional part and basic parts of a solar plate. They distinguish between different types of solar plates. Here, we will comprehensively discuss certain types of solar plates and study which is better.

Different Types of Solar Plates

Depending on the composition and working capabilities, there are several types of solar plates being used from commercial to residential places.

In the market, you might witness two major categories of solar plates—crystalline, & thin-film. They are further divided into subcategories depending on the material used in their composition. Collectively, these are;

  • Polycrystalline
  • Mono-crystalline
  • Passivated Emitter & Rear Cell (PERC) Panels
  • Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)
  • Amorphous Silicon (a-Si)
  • Copper Indium Selenide (CIGS)

Each of them is explained as;

1.     Polycrystalline

Polycrystalline solar plates have solar cells that are composed of silicon. The raw silicon is melted and formed into multiple strands of silicon. They are combined together in the form of wafers that are assembled into rows and columns ultimately forming a rectangle. These rectangles are covered by a glass sheet.


  • They appear bluish, have a sparkling look.
  • They lack round edges at the intersection point of the solar cells.
  • Their surface is light and fragmented blue silicon can be seen.


Rather than a single strand of silicon, there are multiple fragments of raw silicon been bonded together by melting.


The polycrystalline solar plates have a lower-medium efficiency level ranging from 15% to 17%. This is because of the multiple strands of silicon present in the composition. The boundaries between the fragments increase the deflection of particles, thus causing a bit of delay in the production of electrical energy.

Price Range

Due to less hassle in the composition of solar cells, and almost no wastage of silicon during the manufacturing, they are cheaper in the market—as compared to the mono-crystalline solar plates.


As the material used in the solar cells is raw silicon that is bonded together through grains—these can be affected by hot temperatures, causing a certain loss of efficiency over some span of time. If they are maintained properly, they can last from 20 to 25 years.

Installation (Space Efficiency)

The installation space required for the polycrystalline is standard, unlike any other type—but they are slightly less space-efficient as compared to its fellow plate types due to raw square molds of silicon since the construction is cheaper.

Best Polycrystalline Solar Plates

For the best polycrystalline solar plates 2021 along with the solar panel installation service, here you can go through;

2.     Monocrystalline

The monocrystalline is a type of crystallite-based silicon solar cell panel. In a solar cell, there is only a single piece of crystallite that is responsible for the conversion of sunlight into electrical energy.


The crystallite used in the monocrystalline solar cells is pure silicon. During the manufacturing of the monocrystalline, around half amount of the silicon is wasted upon the composition of one solar cell.


The efficiency of the monocrystalline solar plates is around 20-25%. Although improved technology, raises up to 40%, these model’s availability is still limited to labs, not being introduced to the local market. As the single crystallite piece silicon is used in the solar cells, there is less deflection of energy particles in the cells, causing more efficiency.


This sort of solar plate does not have complete squares, instead, have a rounded edge at the point intersection of solar cells. The color is blackish blue, without sparkling texture as compared to polycrystalline plates.

Price Range

Due to the wastage of the silicon during the composition of the solar cells, in order to attain the purest crystalline piece in the cell—they are ought to be pricier than the polycrystalline plates.

Installation (Space Efficiency)

Their units are more efficient upon the space they take as compared to the polycrystalline solar plates.

To deeply study the comparison between the monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar plates, you must read through; Which Solar Plate Type is Better—Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline?


The monocrystalline solar plates last longer than polycrystalline, as the finest form of silicon-based solar cells is tolerant to heat situations much prominently. Their ratio of efficiency loss over time is around ¼ better than the polycrystalline—having a usual span of around 25 to 35 years.

Best Monocrystalline Solar Plates 2021

For the best monocrystalline solar panels 2021, go through;

3.     Passivated Emitter & Rear Cell (PERC) Panels

The passivated emitter & rear cell panel have the same composition base of monocrystalline solar panels, but they are much more efficient as being an improved technology.

Efficiency—how passivated emitter & rear cell (PERC) are more efficient?

In an ordinary crystalline solar panel, there is still a loss of energy while the production; here’s how;

How there is a certain loss of electron (energy) in ordinary monocrystalline solar panels?

This is because of the occasional reflection of electrons through the cell to the rear contact, sunlight been blocked by wires, or sometimes, they are converted into heat. Likewise, due to the random motion of the electrons, there is a loss of efficiency.

How PERC solar cells have improved technology to prevent the loss?

In the PERC panels, there are certain improvements that are;

  • An added font passivation layer that is efficient in stopping front-side recombination and prevents reflection.
  • The wires are placed on the backside of the panel to prevent unwanted blockage of electrons.
  • Added surface field layer on the back that allows the solar cell to capture more sunlight.


As compared to the standard modules of the crystalline solar panels (mono or poly), the PERC modules have 1-2% higher efficiency of converting sunlight into electrical energy—if the PERC solar panel systems are installed properly in the suitable climate, then this collectively generates about 5% more energy than a system with the standard module installed in the same situation.


Same as of the monocrystalline, but with added passivated emitter and rear contact or “cell” placed at the back of the solar cells as improved technology to capture and convert more electrical energy.


The front panel is the same as of crystalline solar plates, thus, the front side is the same as of the relevant category—the weight would be slightly more than the corresponding capacity model of solar panel that would not have a PERC module.

Price Range

PERC module-based solar plates are a bit pricier than the corresponding category solar plate with standard technology. For instance, the monocrystalline solar panel of 250kW with PERC module would be many bucks more than the same 250kW monocrystalline solar panel without PERC module.

Here, you can get the best monocrystalline PERC module,

4.     Cadmium Telluride (CdTe)—Thin-Film

Unlike any of the crystalline solar panel that uses silicon in the construction, there are other materials that are used despite it—known as a thin film, there are three sorts of material used that are, cadmium telluride, amorphous silicon, and copper indium.

The cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells have the CdTe film that is responsible for absorption and conversion of visible light—now, this layer installed along with intermediate and TCO layers form an electric field that converts light into the current.


Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) solar plates are relatively less efficient than the crystalline solar plates—ranging from 10 to 11 percent. Although some manufacturers have successfully achieved an efficiency rate of up to 16%, a higher extension of efficiency has been dropped due to the use of highly toxic material “cadmium”.

Composition—a bad-side

As the material used in this sort of CdTe solar panel is cadmium, which is highly toxic thus, many models from the manufacturers are usually denied, ban due to pollution problems.

Price Range—a good side

The major acceptance of cadmium telluride solar panels in commercial grounds is because of the cheapest costs of manufacturing. The ease of just mixing two solutions of cadmium allows the composition of these solar plates—as compared to hassling manufacturing process of a silicon-based solar panel.


These appear to be plain black without any sparkling hues, the cells sometimes are relatively smaller than that of corresponding cells of the crystalline-based panel. There are thin lines between the cells without any round edges at the intersecting point.

5.     Amorphous Silicon (a-Si)—Thin-Film

Unlike any silicon crystalline (mono/poly) they are manufactured from the same base material; silicon, but they are constructed in a different way. There are thin layers of silicon having a width of less than human hair providing ultimate flexibility.


The efficiency ratio of the amorphous silicon solar panel system is even lower than that of the cadmium telluride solar panel system—ranging from 7 to 8 percent.

Composition-a good side

Rather than using wafer of solid silicon, they are composed of non-crystalline silicon on a substrate of glass, plastic, or metal. Their manufacturing doesn’t require a hectic number of toxic materials, unlike the cadmium telluride solar panels.

Physical Stature

Amorphous silicon solar panels are flexible and have black tiny solar cells in the sheet. They are light weighted and enduring to hits/damages.

Price Range

As the efficiency is a bad side of this amorphous silicon-based solar panel but the economical approach is a plus—their market retail is deeply light on the pocket.

6.     Copper Indium Selenide (CIGS)—Thin-Film

The compound used in this solar panel is copper gallium indium diselenide (yes, this is chemistry!). the material collectively between the conducting material is responsible for the photoconversion of the light into current.


As compared to the other sorts of thin-film solar panel modules; cadmium telluride and amorphous silicon, they are competitively more efficient—their efficiency ratio ranging from 18 to 20 percent in laboratory tests.


The main cells are composed of a thin layer of material copper indium gallium selenide that can be extremely flexible, but to ensure protectiveness from the harshness of motion, the manufacturers pack them between glass panels. As the material has a higher ratio in absorbing sunlight, thus, a thinner film is sufficient rather than that of other semiconducting materials.

Are CIGS solar panels toxic?

Some of the manufacturers use cadmium to some extent in CIGS solar panels, but not that much to cause disturbance to the environment’s health. On the other hand, for the incorporation of Se in the solar cell composition, the H2Se is used, as it is good for better uniformity and large grain size, but likewise, it is extremely hazardous.

Physical Stature

The CIGS thin-film solar panels have green and blue solar cells in their sheets. The solar panel is very flexible if the material is not sandwiched in the glass.

Price Range—a bad side

The CIGS solar panels are competitively efficient as compared to the crystalline silicon solar panel, but due to the hassling manufacturing procedure and use of such compounds—they are likewise pricier even than the PERC monocrystalline modules.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 types of solar panels?

These three types; polycrystalline, monocrystalline, and thin-film are commonly referred to in the market but monocrystalline and polycrystalline are the sub-categories of crystalline solar panels—where the thin-film is further split into three main categories depending on the material used; cadmium telluride (CdTe), amorphous silicon (a-Si), and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

Which type of solar panel is the best?

Depending on the efficiency, we can set the listing of solar panel types as;

  • Amorphous Silicon has an efficiency ranging from 6 to 7 percent.
  • Cadmium Telluride has an efficiency ranging from 10 to 11 percent.
  • Polycrystalline panels have an efficiency ranging from 15 to 17 percent.
  • Copper Indium Gallium Selenide panels have an efficiency ranging from 18 to 20 percent.
  • Monocrystalline panels have an efficiency ranging from 18 to 22 percent.
  • PERC module-based crystalline panels have an added extra 5% efficiency.

What is the latest technology of solar panel systems?

A solar tech company—Oxford PV has revealed their solar panel technology to achieve a solar conversion efficiency of over 28%. This is possible with the help of a covering of thin layer crystal material known as perovskite placed over the typical silicon solar cells.

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