Solar panels are becoming increasingly common in households these days. Almost every house, office establishment, or public building is equipped with solar panels, especially in the better-developed countries.
There are mainly two kinds of solar panels in use these days- silicon panels and thin-film solar panels. Among these, silicon-based solar panels are a lot more commonly used. This doesn’t mean that thin-film panels are any less. Thin-film solar panels have their benefits too.
The kind of solar panel you choose for your establishment mostly depends upon your needs and requirements. The more you read about them, the better you will get at picking the right type.
Picking the correct type of solar panel will help you save money and generate more energy from the sun’s rays. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you understand the concept behind thin-film solar panels and their benefits.
Keep reading and find out more!
- 1 What Are Thin-Film Solar Panels?
- 2 Top Features of Thin-Film Solar Panels
- 3 Principles and Working Mechanism of Thin-Film Solar Panels
- 4 Differences between thin-film solar panels and silicon-based panels
- 5 In conclusion
What Are Thin-Film Solar Panels?
Thin-film solar panels are made up of a series of solar cells placed adjacent to each other. These cells come together to form a panel system that converts solar energy into usable electricity.
What sets these panels apart is their size and manufacturing materials. Lately, thin-film solar panels have gained popularity in both households as well as commercial establishments. The reason for this is their compact size which makes them perfect for rooftops and small lawns/backyards.
These solar panels are significantly smaller than their silicon-based counterparts and are easier to install in high-rise buildings. Their energy conversion rate is also a redeeming factor that makes them an excellent choice.
Top Features of Thin-Film Solar Panels
Several features make thin-film solar panels unique. Based on the following, you can decide if this type of solar panel system is right for you.
1. They Are Flexible
Thin-film solar panels are about 300 times thinner than traditional silicon-based solar panels. This makes them exceptionally flexible and malleable. You can set them up anywhere to create a panel system that best fits your spatial requirements.
2. They Are Lightweight
Owing to their small size, thin-film solar panels are also very lightweight. They can weigh as little as 7 ounces per sq. ft., making them easy to transport.
3. They Are Made of Safer Materials
Unlike most silicon-based panels, thin-film solar panel systems are made of materials like Cadmium Telluride, Amorphous Silicon, and Gallium Arsenide.
4. They Are Eco-Friendly
While silicon-based solar panels are considered to be one of the greenest and cleanest ways to generate electricity, they still generate some harmful emissions. These emissions are common to products that use silicon as their main component.
Thin-film solar panels ace this field. They are mainly made up of GaAs or Gallium Arsenide, which has comparatively lesser emissions while functioning at higher efficiency of up to 28%.
5. They Are Easy to Install
Because they are lightweight and flexible, thin-film solar panels are effortless to install. These panels can be scaled very quickly and installed on rooftops very easily.
Thin-film solar panels are also easy to manipulate, which further eases installation processes significantly.
6. They are easy to maintain
Thin-film solar panels are easy to repair and require lesser maintenance as compared to traditional silicon-based solar panels. This further helps reduce costs and makes it easier to install smaller-scale solar panel systems. Such systems are generally installed on rooftops of homes and offices.
Principles and Working Mechanism of Thin-Film Solar Panels
So, do thin-film solar panels work any differently than silicon-based solar panels?
The answer is both yes and no.
Thin-film solar panels are based on the photovoltaic principle and absorb solar energy, which is then converted to usable electricity. This conversion takes place in the photovoltaic (PV) cells that make up the surface of the solar panels.
These cells are essentially semiconductors and work on the principle of the movement of electrons. They are composed of p-type and n-type materials. The combination of the two materials in every cell is responsible for the movement of the electrons.
The p-type material is electron deficient, and the n-type material has enough free electrons. When direct sunlight hits the surface of the solar panels, there is movement in the free electrons present.
The sunlight charges these electrons, and a p-n exchange takes place. This exchange and sudden movement in the electrons generate electricity. The amount of current generated depends on the amount of activity experienced in the cell.
Traditional silicon solar panels use silicon as the primary material in the semiconductor. However, when it comes to thin-film solar panels, the material used for semiconductors can be Cadmium Telluride (CdTe), Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), etc.
Differences between thin-film solar panels and silicon-based panels
As discussed above, thin-film solar panels are very different than the more commonly seen silicon solar panels.
What do you think sets them apart? Are they better than their silicone counterparts? Well, both types of panels have their own set of pros and cons.
Which one should you go for then? Have a look at the differences between the two to determine the right solar panel system for your property.
Silicon solar panels have been around for decades. These panels are a trusted name in homes and are widely used in commercial settings as well.
Contrarily, thin-film solar panels are not as popular. These models have just recently been introduced on a commercial scale. People are trying to get used to them and assess their performance.
One of the most significant advantages of silicon solar panels is their high efficiency rate. These solar panels have an efficiency rate of 12-24.4%, meaning that they convert more solar energy into electrical energy and are very reliable.
On the other hand, thin-film solar panels are not as efficient. Although their absorption coefficient is higher than that of a silicon solar panel, the efficiency factor is not very high.
Cost of installation
Over the last few years, the cost of production and installation of silicon panels has gone down significantly. This makes them more accessible and cost-effective.
Thin-film solar panels are less expensive than silicon panels. They are easier to install and can be used for a wide range of applications. Their cost of installation is also significantly lesser than silicon solar panels.
The most important distinguishing feature between the two types of solar panels is the material used in the semiconductor. Silicon panels use silicon-based materials, which makes them rigid and heavy.
On the other hand, thin-film solar panels are made of materials like Cadmium Telluride, Amorphous Silicon, and Gallium Arsenide. These materials enable thin-film solar panels to be flexible and lightweight. Installation is more manageable with such panels as one can easily manipulate them without too much effort.
Cost of maintenance
Silicon solar panels are heavier and require a lot of maintenance, especially in severe climatic conditions. You need to invest in their upkeep from time to time to prevent and slow down degradation rates.
On the contrary, thin-film solar panels are easier to run and cheaper to maintain.
Thin-film solar panels have a wide range of applications and can also be used commercially. If you have a smaller rooftop and wish to try something different, they are worth a shot.
However, it is essential to consult a professional before finalizing the type of solar panel that will work best in your establishment.