Types of solar panels: Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline

The types of solar panels

There are three main types of solar panels in the Australia market: monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline and amorphous (thin film) panels. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are the two types most commonly used for residential and commercial installations. Amorphous panels are thin film panels that are more flexible and serve a purpose for portable installations or camping.

What are solar panels made of?

Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are made from crystalline silicon. Amorphous panels are also made from silicon, but far less is needed to manufacture them.

Monocrystalline vsPolycrystalline:

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline both make for excellent panels. We explain the differences between the two popular types of panels:

Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline:
Monocrystalline Polycrystalline
Appearance: Black Blue with crystal structure
Manufacture process: More intensive Simple
Efficiency: 18 – 22% 15 – 17%
Roof space: Minimises area Needs more space
Price: More expensive Less expensive
Temperature performance: Effective Effective

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Key differences

Appearance

It is easy to distinguish between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels; mono panels tend to be much darker almost black in appearance. Polycrystalline panels, on the other hand, are much bluer and, the texture of the crystal is visible in the actual panel.

the difference in appearance between mono and poly solar panels

Manufacture process

There is a slight difference in the manufacturing process of different types of solar panels. Polycrystalline panels are made from multi-crystalline silicon that is melted and placed in square moulds before being cut into wafers. Monocrystalline panels are made from cylindrical silicon ingots that then get cut into wafers; they feature more pure silicon than polycrystalline panels, and this is why they are more efficient.

Panel efficiency

Solar panel efficiency is the rate at which a panel converts sunlight into electricity. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient than polycrystalline modules with the top of the range SunPower panels achieving 22% efficiency. The Monocrystalline panels typically have an efficiency of between 18 – 22% while polycrystalline panels achieve between 15 – 17% efficiency.

Roof space

The higher the efficiency of the panel, the less of them you will need to make up an entire system. If space is an issue on your rooftop, you should consider monocrystalline panels as they are more efficient and therefore you will need less of them to achieve your desired system size.

Price difference

Due to their higher efficiency and silicon content, monocrystalline panels are more expensive than polycrystalline panels. The cost of the panels varies further between different manufacturing brands. You have to remember that while you pay more for monocrystalline panels, you need less of them.

Temperature coefficient

There is a minor difference in the performance of monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels in hot temperature conditions. The temperature coefficient varies slightly between the two different modules from the same manufacturer; monocrystalline panels are rated to perform between 0.5 – 1% better in high temperature.

Which type of panel is best?

Monocrystalline panels are more efficient and for that reason can be considered a higher quality panel; this also means they are more expensive. Very little separates the panels in pure performance.

Why buy monocrystalline panels?

  • You have a shortage of roof space and need a more efficient panel
  • The darker mono aesthetics of the panel are more appealing

Why buy polycrystalline panels?

  • You may find they provide a cheaper alternative

Amorphous panels

Amorphous thin film panels are a cheaper alternative to monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. They are far less efficient, meaning that you will need a whole lot more of them to generate the same amount of solar power.

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