The solar industry is dynamic and diverse, with new technology developments emerging since the establishment of companies specializing in solar energy in the 1980s, thus resulting in a vast number of components and devices to help businesses and households power their daily activities more efficiently. This is especially true regarding solar panels, as several types of panels in the market serve different needs and budgets. Still, two types are the most commonly used due to their versatility and performance: monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels.
If you want to go solar and are currently researching the panel options available, then keep reading because we will put monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels side by side and compare them so you can make an informed decision.
Monocrystalline vs. Polycrystalline Solar Panels Comparison
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
These panels are made of monocrystalline silicon, which is the semiconductor material. The key feature of monocrystalline solar panels is that they are constructed from a single, uniform crystal structure of high-purity silicon, which makes them the most efficient in turning sunlight into electricity.
Here are the main characteristics of monocrystalline solar panels:
- Appearance: Monocrystalline solar cells typically have a black or dark blue colour, giving them a uniform appearance. This is partly due to the black anti-reflective coating that enhances light absorption.
Monocrystalline solar panels (Linquip.com)
- Manufacturing: In the production of monocrystalline panels, a single crystal ingot is made from a highly purified silicon melt, and then the ingot is sliced into wafers. This process results in a higher purity of silicon but also increases the manufacturing complexity and generates more waste material, resulting in a higher market price.
- High efficiency: As mentioned above, monocrystalline panels are known for their high-efficiency output, ranging from 15% to 24% of sunlight turned into electricity due to the purity and uniformity of the silicon crystal. These panels perform well even in low-light conditions, making them suitable for areas with partial shading or less sunlight.
- Space-Efficient Design: Monocrystalline panels have a higher power output per square foot of space occupied. This makes them suitable for installations where space is limited, such as residential rooftops.
- Long lifespan: Monocrystalline solar panels are known for their durability. With good maintenance, they can operate efficiently for 25 years or more.
- Cost: Monocrystalline solar panels tend to be more expensive than other panels. However, technology improvements and the increasing offering have narrowed the cost, and these panels are now more competitively priced.
- Applications: Monocrystalline panels are used in various applications, including residential installations, commercial projects, utility-scale solar farms, and small solar-powered devices like phone chargers.
Due to their high performance and long lifespan, these are the type of panels we use for our installations.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Unlike monocrystalline solar panels, which are made from a single crystal structure, polycrystalline (or multi-crystalline) panels are produced by melting multiple silicon fragments and casting them into molds.
These are the main features to look for in polycrystalline panels:
- Appearance: Polycrystalline solar cells typically have a blue shade due to the presence of different crystal structures. This can give them a distinctive appearance compared to monocrystalline panels’ black or dark blue colour.
- Manufacturing: Polycrystalline production processes are less complex and faster than those for monocrystalline panels. The casting of silicon into molds is a simpler process than growing a single crystal ingot. Moreover, using several silicon pieces produces less waste and lower energy consumption.
- Lower silicon purity: Using multiple silicon fragments translates into lower-purity silicon, leading to less uniformity in the material and directly impacting the panel’s performance. The presence of impurities and more crystal boundaries in the silicon can obstruct the movement of electrons, reducing the overall conversion efficiency of sunlight into electricity.
- Moderate efficiency: Polycrystalline solar panels generally have moderate efficiency levels ranging from 13% to 16%. While slightly less efficient than monocrystalline panels, they are still suitable for houses, solar farms, and even traffic lights.
- Space requirements: Polycrystalline panels may require more space to produce the same power output as monocrystalline panels with higher efficiency. This can be a downside if your installation space is limited.
- Durability and Longevity: Polycrystalline solar panels can operate for a long time. Like their monocrystalline counterparts, they can produce power over two decades. However, they’re less tolerant to heat, which can significantly reduce their lifespan.
- Cost: The cost-effectiveness of using lower-purity silicon and the less intensive manufacturing process contributes to the overall affordability of polycrystalline panels.
Despite the lower efficiency of lower-purity silicon, polycrystalline solar panels remain a popular and cost-effective choice for many solar installations. Technological advancements continue to improve the performance of polycrystalline panels, making them competitive with other solar panel alternatives.
So, Should You Choose Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline Solar Panels?
When deciding which solar panels to use for your project, the answer isn’t cut and dry. Technological advancements continue to improve the performance of polycrystalline panels, making them competitive with their monocrystalline counterparts. It’s essential to consider your specific application needs, available space, and budget constraints when choosing between one type of panel over another.
If you need extra help to choose the ideal panels, we’re here to help. Contact us to book a free, no-obligation consultation, and our experts will guide you through your solar journey.