Most panels will fall into one of two categories: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Both of these are considered first generation type panels, and they fall under the Photovoltaic (PV) category. More to come on PV versus thermal energy.
What is the difference and are there any benefits to choosing one over the other? Read on to find out!
These photovoltaic cells are made of a single silicon crystal. These crystals are grown in labs specifically for solar panels. Each crystal is grown into a cylindrical shape and then sliced into thin octagonal discs. This shape allows for a maximum number of discs in each panel, as they fit together tightly.
These panels are distinctively black in color and typically have an efficiency range of 15%-20%.
These cells are made of individual polycrystalline cells. These are made from silicon crystals, but instead of being extruded into a single ingot, the crystal is allowed to cool and fragment on its own. These are melted and formed into cubes, which are then cut into thin wafers. Many crystals form this type of cell rather than the single crystal used with monocrystalline. The production is less exact, so these can be produced at a lower cost.
These are distincitively blue in color, and they tend to be less efficient than mono cells, because the melted fragments allow less room for electrons to move around. These tend to have an efficiency range of 13%-16%.
How do They Compare?
Mono cell panels are more modern and sleek in their look, as they are uniformly black, while poly cell panels are bluish and have a less uniform look.
Mono cell panels are more expensive to produce, ranging from $1-$1.50/watt. Poly cell panels range from $.75-$1/watt.
Mono cell panels are more efficient than poly cell panels.
Both panels have the same estimated lifespan of 25-30+ years.
Mono cell panels typically perform better in high-temperature environments.
Both are durable, but mono cell panels are moreso due to their single-crystal structure.
Mono cell panels are best for smaller applications, like residential projects. These are ideal when efficiency is the goal over cost.
Poly cell panels are good for large-scale projects and when cost is more important than efficiency.