While installing a solar power plant, you may get confused on what type of solar panels should be used among the two most widely used solar panel technologies. The two technologies are, monocrystalline panels and polycrystalline panels. This is a complete guide on Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline solar panels.
This is the question, people have asked us many times. Here, we are listing the facts on both these technologies, the differences between them and the advantages and disadvantages of both the technologies.
Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels’ difference effectively lies in the way their cells are made. So, to differentiate between the construction of these panels, we need to look at the difference in the construction processes involved in the construction of individual cells of these panels.
Monocrystalline cells are made by a process called Czochralski (CZ) Process. In this process, the raw material, that is, silicon is heated to convert it into a molten form. There is a seed which just touches this molten silicon. Now, this molten silicon is cooled very slowly so that the temperature of its surface just touching the seed is slightly lower than the rest. Now, on getting cooled, as the surface starts to solidify, silicon gets stuck to the seed just above it and starts to grow as the seed is slowly moved upwards. As it is pulled up, more and more silicon is formed at the seed and pulling it up forms a cylinder. These cylinders are called ingots which are essentially single crystal silicon. These are then cut into thin slices called wafers.
The process of making polycrystalline cells is quite simple. Polycrystalline cell making also starts in the same way that, these panels are also made by heating silicon to the molten form. The molten silicon is then put into molds and are allowed to cool and solidify. These are then cut into wafers.
Monocrystalline solar panels and polycrystalline solar panels can be distinguished very easily.
Monocrystalline panels generally have cells of single color and generally have white spaces between individual cells which are more pronounced at the corners.
Polycrystalline panels can have slight color differences, that is, there are different shades of same color (generally, blue) throughout panel surface. Even different crystals are easily visible on the surface. Also, there are no white boundaries around any cell as in the monocrystalline ones.
Monocrystalline solar modules have an efficiency of one to two percent higher than that of polycrystalline solar panels.
The difference also lies in the fact that, the degradation in efficiencies of solar panels with respect to temperature changes are less in monocrystalline panels as compared to polycrystalline solar panels. To understand this, we need to know that solar panels efficiency decreases with rise in ambient temperatures above temperature of ideal test conditions. This ideal temperature is 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, in hot countries (generally, countries lying in torrid and temperate zones), where temperature rises well above the ideal temperature, the efficiency of solar panel decreases. This decrease in efficiency of solar panels is higher in polycrystalline panels as compared to monocrystalline panels. In other words, monocrystalline panels are more heat tolerant that polycrystalline panels.
Now, lets have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of monocrystalline solar modules over polycrystalline solar modules.
Advantages of Monocrystalline Solar Panels
The advantages of monocrystalline solar panels over polycrystalline solar panels are as follows:
- Higher Efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels generally have an efficiency of one to two percent higher than that of polycrystalline solar panels.
- Space efficient. Since these panels are more efficient that polycrystalline panels, monocrystalline panels provide more power output than polycrystalline panels installed in same space.
- Heat Tolerance. Monocrystalline panels are more heat tolerant than polycrystalline panels.
- Although the warranty on both these technologies of panels is generally same as 25 years. Monocrystalline panels tend to have longer life than polycrystalline panels.
- Better performance in low lighting conditions. Since monocrystalline panels have more efficiency than polycrystalline panels, they provide more output on cloudy, foggy and rainy days.
Disadvantages of Monocrystalline Solar Panels
The disadvantages of monocrystalline solar panels over polycrystalline solar panels are as follows:
- The process involved in making monocrystalline solar panels is an expensive process. This makes these panels more expensive than polycrystalline panels.
We have just looked at the advantages of monocrystalline panels with respect to polycrystalline panels. Now, to make this article even, lets have a look other way round, that is, the advantages and disadvantages of polycrystalline panels over monocrystalline panels.
Advantages of Polycrystalline Solar Panels
The advantages of polycrystalline solar panels over monocrystalline solar panels are as follows:
- Polycrystalline panels are cheaper than monocrystalline panels.
Disadvantages of Polycrystalline Solar Panels
The disadvantages of polycrystalline solar panels over monocrystalline solar panels are as follows:
- Lower Efficiency. Polycrystalline panels have lower efficiency than monocrystalline panels.
- Space requirement. These panels cover slightly larger space than monocrystalline panels to produce same output as monocrystalline panels.
- Heat Tolerance. These panels are less heat tolerant than monocrystalline panels. That means, their efficiency decreases more than monocrystalline solar panels with increase in temperature.
The wording is clear that, monocrystalline solar panels or modules are better than polycrystalline solar panels. But this advantage comes at an added cost.
The choice of panels should be made considering all the necessary factors such as:
- This is a personal preference. People go for polycrystalline panels because they are cheaper. But the cost of monocrystalline panels is also decreasing day by day and it has its performance benefits. Do check for the price difference between these technologies of panels and if you don’t find much difference then, you should go for monocrystalline panels.
- Atmospheric conditions. In places where the temperature remains around 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, the output of polycrystalline panels will be similar to monocrystalline panels.
- As said, polycrystalline panels require more space as compared to monocrystalline solar panels. If there is a shortage of space, one can go for monocrystalline panels.
We suggest you consider these three points before choosing the right panel technology for you.