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In the world market of solar photovoltaic panels there are different types of solar panels but what are they? Continue reading and you will discover it.

Do you want to install solar panels on your roof and want to know what type of solar panel is best for you? What types of solar panels are there and what are the differences? And what type of solar panel is the best? 


Differences in performance, appearance and price are the main reasons for choosing one or the other. In this article you can read more about the three most common types of solar panels and the difference between glass and glass panels.

Solar panels consist of solar cells that convert solar radiation into electricity. Solar cells are usually made of silicon material.

 In any case for poly and monocrystalline solar panels. The difference in the production process determines the difference between monocrystalline solar panels (black) and polycrystalline (blue) solar panels. 

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In addition, there are also thin film (amorphous) panels, solar cells are made of indium, copper and selenide (CIS).

Monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels.

The monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are made of silicon solar cells. Solar cells are small squares with a size of approximately 15 cm by 15 cm. The solar cell is made of silicon, one of the most common materials on earth. 

Silicon is found mainly in ordinary sand and melts and purifies to turn it into solar cells. The crystalline solar panels are standard available in the format of 100 cm by 160 cm. 

The sizes of deviation are available in a limited way and will be somewhat more expensive compared to the standard size.

Monocrystalline panels are very popular with consumers because of their black / dark blue color. The panels are usually a bit more expensive than the polycrystalline variant, but the slightly higher performance makes up for it. 

This means that systems with monocrystalline panels have a higher yield per m2  of  roof area. Polycrystalline panels are recommended for large surfaces because they are cheaper.

Polycrystalline solar panels

Polycrystalline solar cells consist of several crystals. These arise during the production process. 

Silicon is melted and cooled in large containers. The crystals are formed in the material during cooling. Similar to snow crystals or ice. 

After cooling, large square bars of 15 by 15 cm are made from the material and then cut into slices. These slices are the solar cells. 

Through this process, you can clearly see different crystals of different sizes in a solar cell. This also explains the polycrystalline name (multiple crystals).

Monocrystalline solar panels

Monocrystalline solar cells consist of a crystal. The production process is similar to making candles. A rod with a small layer of silicone on the top is immersed in an oven with molten silicone. The molten silicon sticks to the stick as it rotates and a round rod slowly forms. 

Through this process, the crystals are focused in a specific direction, making it look like a single (mono) crystal. The round bar you have is transformed into a square with rounded corners so that they can easily fit into a rectangular panel without losing too much space.

The monocrystalline solar panels have a black color. Despite the relatively expensive production process, the panel is also more profitable.

 The monocrystalline panels that are being manufactured can now convert 17 to 22% of the incoming solar energy into usable electricity. The performance decreases slightly each year, but after 10 years, the panels are still at 92 percent of the performance under new conditions.

 The decrease in the efficiency of solar panels over time is therefore not so bad. Because monocrystalline solar panels provide a large amount of energy per m  2  roof area, these panels are especially recommended for small roofs. 

In addition, the majority of consumers in the Netherlands (around 80% of sales) opt for these panels because they like the black look.

What is the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels?

The difference between solar panels or crystalline cells is not only the color but also other aspects:

  1. Return on investment:  Monocrystalline solar cells provide more electricity than polycrystalline cells. The difference is no longer so great because more polycrystalline cells are manufactured and manufacturers have improved this process. Therefore, the production process has become cheaper.
  2. Shape and size of the solar cell:  The polycrystalline solar cells are square, the monocrystalline cells usually have rounded corners. As a result, monocrystalline solar panels often have white diamonds between the solar cells. Full black solar panels are also increasingly available at this time. In that case the solar cells are square monocrystalline solar cells. This ensures a nearly uniform black appearance.
  3. Structure:  The monocrystalline solar cells are smooth and thin, the polycrystalline solar cells are slightly thicker and more varied in structure.
  4. Sensitivity to light: Monocrystalline solar cells have a slightly higher efficiency with diffused light (when, for example, it is cloudy). Polycrystalline solar cells, on the other hand, are better for converting direct sunlight into electricity.
  5. Colors:  Monocrystalline solar panels have a dark color, sometimes even completely black. Polycrystalline solar panels have a more bluish magic ball color.

Thin film solar panels

Another type of solar panel is the so-called thin film (amorphous) solar panel. These panels have a sleek black and slim appearance. The solar cells for this species are made of indium, copper and selenide (CIS). 

Unlike crystalline solar cells, cadmium and lead are not used for this, which makes the production process much more respectful with the environment.

 A thin film solar panel consists of 1 large solar cell. The thin-film solar cell is flexible and, therefore, does not break easily. The size of a thin film panel is different from crystalline solar panels, where a common size of 160 cm by 100 cm. 

How much do thin film solar panels measure?

Thin film panels are generally about 35 cm shorter. A size of 125 cm by 100 cm is a common standard format.

Thin-film panels generate less energy per square meter of roof surface than polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar panels.

 Also, any inverter can not be connected, since the maximum voltage with thin-film panels is greater than with the crystalline panels. For these reasons they are not interesting for private owners. 

As an owner, you often have a limited area of ​​roof area of ​​m  2  and then want to offset as much of your own electricity consumption as possible with the energy generated by your solar panels.

Single panels of glass or glass sheet


The transparent back of a glass solar panel.

Another big difference that can be made between solar panels is the type of material used for the back (backsheet) of the panel. There are panels with a composite of plastic (glass sheet) and with a glass backing (glass crystal). 

The glass sheet solar panels are currently the best sellers, but the glass and glass solar panels are increasing. The glass and glass panels are more resistant and, ultimately, have a better performance than glass sheet panels. 

Keep in mind, this only refers to the crystalline panels. The thin film panels do not have glued on the front and back.

Glass sheet solar panels

The solar panels of glass sheet are the most common solar panels and sold in the current market. The technology has proven its effectiveness and, despite some minor disadvantages, it is a large solar panel to have on its roof. 

Glass sheet solar panels are usually white or black from the back and are structured as follows:

  1. Plastic back
  2. Glue film;
  3. Solar cells;
  4. Glue film;
  5. Glass lid

Glass-glass solar panels

Solar glass-glass panels are on the rise today. The demand for glass and glass panels increases and, as a result, the price is increasingly interesting. 

The difference with the solar panels of glass sheet is the back part that is made of glass instead of plastic. Glass is much stronger than plastic and reacts less sensitive to weather influences.

 The temperature differences cause shrinkage and elongation during the season and, due to this, cracks occur in the solar cell.

 Glass shrinks and stretches less due to temperature differences than plastic. As a result, they offer better performance and last longer than glass sheet solar panels. 

Another advantage is the transparency of the glass. This means that a solar panel heats up less in the summer. A hot solar panel is less efficient at converting sunlight into electricity.

Special tests can also test these benefits and manufacturers offer better and higher guarantees on performance and life. Manufacturers normally grant a 10 and 25 year performance guarantee for a glass sheet panel   . 

After 10 years, you can expect at least 90% of the original income and, after 25 years, at least 80%. With  the glass-glass  panels   , that’s a different story. 

After 30 years, a guarantee is generally issued that the return must be at least 87%. This quality is, of course, interesting, but there is also a higher price.

Which is the best option?

Of course, it depends on your personal situation why you choose one thing or another. If you look only at the quality, the best option is a monocrystalline panel with a glass backing. 

This type of panel combines high efficiency with reliability and a long service life. There is a price tag on it, but if you have the necessary investment, the profitability and profit will be greater during the entire useful life.

So, why choose other panels?

That’s simple, you may not always have the financial means to buy monocrystalline glass panels and that’s why it ends with a monocrystalline glass sheet or polycrystalline solar panels. 

If you have enough space on the roof to generate more than your own electricity, this may be the cheapest option.

Thin film solar panels are currently only interesting when choosing the most aesthetic solution. Also, place these panels more easily in unusual places because they are flexible.

 The performance is less high than with the crystalline panels and, therefore, only used for special projects, such as monuments.


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