Photovoltaics is a known method for generating electric power through the use of solar cells – converting energy from the sun into a direct current of electricity. Usually, when talking about Photovoltaic cells, the technical terms monocrystalline and polycrystalline appear. These are the two major types of crystalline silicon cells.
There is a great deal of interest between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels. The most common questions that customers have when choosing between the two revolve around the quality and cost spectrum of each type of cell. Knowing their differences and how each type affects a cell’s performance will help consumers identify which type of cell is most appropriate for their use.
UNDERSTANDING PHOTOVOLTAIC CELLS
A large number of photovoltaic cells are made from silicon. The reason why silicon is used is due to the fact that it is an incredible semiconductor. This means that generating power through the use of silicon is faster as electrons can very easily travel through it.
However, even though silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, pure silicon has to be extracted before it can be used. The usual method for extraction is called carbothermic reduction, a process in which silica is heated in the presence of carbon. As the extracted silicon cools, it forms crystals. The size of the crystals and the degree of the difficulty of extraction spells the basic difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells. With enough caution, silicon can be extracted as a single large crystal, making a monocrystalline cell possible. Alternatively, polycrystalline cells can be produced from a piece of silicon made up of many crystals.
DIFFERENTIATING THE TWO
Since monocrystalline cells are made from a single crystal, they have a more perfect surface compared to polycrystalline cells. Due to this, a greater amount of solar energy will be absorbed and produced. Polycrystalline cells, on the other hand, might absorb less solar energy per square meter. However, since the creation of polycrystalline cells are much simpler, they are sold at a much cheaper price than monocrystalline ones.
When it comes to space efficiency, monocrystalline cells are generally better than polycrystalline cells. A single square meter of a monocrystalline cell will generate around 190 W, while one square meter of a polycrystalline cell will generate 5.25% less than what a monocrystalline panel can produce. They also have a difference in terms of aesthetics. Polycrystalline cells are usually grainy and produced at a dark-blue hue, while monocrystalline cells have a uniformly black appearance. However, from a distance, this will not be noticeable.
CHOOSING BETWEEN MONOCRYSTALLINE AND POLYCRYSTALLINE CELLS
Right now, monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are becoming more and more similar in terms of aesthetics and performance. In a nutshell, both are good technologies and choosing between the two is simply a matter of personal preference and budget.
If you have more than enough space to install a solar panel, it is better to choose a polycrystalline cell. A polycrystalline cell which produces the same amount of energy as a monocrystalline cell might be slightly larger, but is about 20% cheaper than a monocrystalline cell.
However, if you do not have enough space and you do not need to consider the price factor, it is better to choose a monocrystalline cell. You can save 10% of the space for the same amount of energy.