Types of Solar Panels Explained

Several types of solar panels are available for generating solar electricity. The term photovoltaic (PV) describes the photo electric process that takes place when sunlight interacts with the photo sensitive materials in a panel's PV cells.

Photovoltaic panels produce electricity, unlike solar heating panels that contain a liquid or air that gets heated by the suns thermal energy and produce only heat. Here, we'll take a look at the three most talked about types of solar panels.

PV Panels That Generate Electricity

Conventional Solar Power Panels

The first generations of photovoltaic panels use crystalline silicon solar power cells that are manufactured using poly crystalline silicon or indium copper selenide; the same materials found in semiconductor computer chips.

Conventional Solar Power PanelConventional Solar Power Panel
(Source: ©Don Bell)

Thanks to advances in semiconductor technology, photovoltaic cells are being made increasingly smaller, and they are capable of producing increasingly larger amounts of electricity.

This results in fewer PV panels being needed to produce enough electricity to power a typical household. Because fewer panels are needed, if you choose to mount them on the roof, there will be less weight and stress on the roof structure. Also, fewer panels mean the cost of installation for a home PV system is made affordable.

Thin Film Solar Panels

Several types of thin film PV panels are now in common use and unlike the silicon based solar cells, thin film cells can be mounted on flexible backings. This permits them to have a variety of applications. For example, flexible solar roof shingles can be integrated with traditional asphalt roofing shingles for houses with pitched roofs.

Rolled solar roofing made from flexible PV panels is available for installing on flat roofs, such as those found on commercial buildings, and it can be adapted for use as siding on exterior walls. There's even a thin film solar panel that's translucent enough to be used on windows.

Spray-On Photovoltaic Cells

New types of photovoltaic products are being developed that can be painted or sprayed onto their supporting surfaces instead of needing mounting hardware. The plastic film could even be colored and sprayed onto houses and cars to provide a clean and renewable source of clean electrical power.

This spray on solar cell uses nanotechnology to harness up to 30% of the sun's infrared rays, permitting it to generate electricity even on cloudy days.

For the present time, traditional types of solar panels that are ground or roof mounted will continue to be used as they are proven reliable, durable, and well able to produce the electricity needed to power a typical household.

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