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!

Key Takeaways

  • Thin-film solar panels are smaller and more flexible than silicon-based panels, making them suitable for rooftops and small spaces, and they offer eco-friendly benefits with lower emissions.
  • These panels are lightweight, easy to install, and require less maintenance than traditional silicon panels.
  • While silicon panels have higher efficiency and credibility due to their longer presence in the market, thin-film panels are cost-effective and use lightweight materials, offering an alternative for certain applications.

What Are Thin-Film Solar Panels?

Thin-film solar panels comprise a series of solar cells placed adjacent. These cells combine 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 households and commercial establishments. This is because of their compact size, making 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 suits you.

1. They Are Flexible

Thin-Film Solar PanelsThin-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 easily transported.

3. They are made of safer materials

Unlike most silicon-based panels, thin-film solar panel systems are made of Cadmium Telluride, Amorphous Silicon, and Gallium Arsenide.

4. They are eco-friendly

While silicon-based solar panels are considered 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 a 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, significantly enhancing installation processes.

6. They are easy to maintain

Thin-film solar panels are easy to repair and require less maintenance than traditional silicon-based solar panels. This further helps reduce costs and makes installing smaller-scale solar panel systems easier. 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 occurs in the photovoltaic (PV) cells that make up the surface of the solar panels.

Thin-film Flexible Solar PanelThese 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 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 materials 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 differ greatly from 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? Look at the differences to determine your property’s right solar panel system.


Silicon solar panels have been around for decades. These panels are trusted in homes and widely used in commercial settings.

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.

Efficiency rate

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 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

Thin-Film Solar Panel InstallationOver the last few years, the cost of silicon panel production and installation has decreased 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 various applications. Their cost of installation is also significantly lesser than silicon solar panels.

Material used

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 much 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.

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In conclusion

Thin-film solar panels have a wide range of applications and can be used commercially. They are worth a shot if you have a smaller rooftop and wish to try something different.

However, it is essential to consult a professional before finalizing the type of solar panel that will work best in your establishment.

About the Author

Solar Panels Network stands at the forefront of solar energy solutions, driven by a team of seasoned solar engineers and energy consultants. With over decades of experience in delivering high-quality solar installations and maintenance, we are committed to promoting sustainable energy through customer-centric, tailored solutions. Our articles reflect this commitment, crafted collaboratively by experts to provide accurate, up-to-date insights into solar technology, ensuring our readers are well-informed and empowered in their solar energy decisions.