Solar panels (also called solar modules) are made up of cells. A solar cell is vaguely circular, two to three inches in diameter and organized in rows and columns on a solar panel. For example, a 150-watt solar panel is often four rows by nine columns of solar cells.
Types of Solar Cells
There are several types of solar cells and these are each divided into subcategories. The basic types of solar cells sold on the market are as follows:
- Single crystal silicon solar cells have been the most widely used. They are also the most expensive form of solar cell and are largely responsible for solar energy's reputation as costly.
- Polycrystalline solar cells are cheaper than single crystal silicon solar cells but not as effective in energy conversion.
- Thin film technology has the distinct advantage of being easier to mass produce than crystal cell technology. It costs less, though its durability is questionable. Thin film is also less efficient than crystal silicon, according to most sources.
Single crystal and polycrystalline cells can each last several generations while thin film is newer technology - less costly but also less durable.
Other New Technologies
Some terms in solar energy may not mean much to you. However, you can ask your installer or supplier about the latest in cell technology improvements. Some newer technologies that show promise in the coming years are as follows:
- Multi-junction cells may soon replace widely used single junction cells. Multi-junction cells use several layers of material to transform sunlight into electricity.
- Photolithography can be used for a higher quality grid (or paneling structure). This results in greater electron transfer and thus greater efficiency.
The most common design in photovoltaic modules is something called a "glass plate sandwich," often constructed out of 36 cells connected in a series. This design will produce enough voltage to charge one 12-volt battery.
These and other technologies will increase the efficiency of solar technology and help lower its cost. As with so many things today, technological advances are being made every day, and you can learn much more about solar by clicking on the links nearby.