Difference Between Monocrystalline & Polycrystalline Solar Panels
While Selecting Solar Panels, you get many options in terms of cost and quality. One of the terms you hear while justifying costs or quality panels are of the monocrystalline or polycrystalline type. These terms raise the questions:
A) What is the difference between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels?
B) How does the type of panel affect the cost of solar plant and performance?
Let us explore and find answers to the questions.
Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Solar panels are made of solar cells, small boxes that can be noticed on solar panels. Solar cells convert light energy into electrical energy. They are made from the silicon material. Based on the type of solar cells used, solar panels are classified as monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
As the name suggests, monocrystalline solar cells are made from a single crystal of silicon. The crystal is cut into thin wafers, which are used to make solar cells. By look, monocrystalline solar cells appear in black color.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar cells are made from small crystals of silicon. By look, polycrystalline solar cells appear in blue color.
Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels – Which is the Best?
Solar panel selection should be based on cost and performance. Mono and poly panels mainly differ in two parameters when it comes to performance.
Performance Parameter – Efficiency
One of the factors that indicate the performance of a solar panel is its efficiency. The efficiency of a panel is the percentage of light energy that gets converted into electrical energy.
At the moment, the efficiency of monocrystalline solar panels range between 16% – 22% and efficiency of polycrystalline solar panels range between 12% -18%.
The efficiency of solar panel also indicates the space required to generate power. For example, 18% efficient solar panel requires more space to produce the same amount of power produced by a 22% efficient solar panel. In other words, to produce the same output, the number of 18% panels are required compared to the number of 22% panels assuming panel sizes are equal. i.e; To produce the same output, you need more poly panels compared to mono panels.
With more panels, Balance of System (BoS) that include structures, cables etc., and installation costs would increase.
Performance Parameter – Temperature Coefficients
Mono panels also have better temperature coefficient or perform better at high temperatures.
But, monocrystalline panels are costlier compared to poly panels. For indication, 22% of mono panels costs twice compared to 18% poly panels. The higher cost of mono panels is attributed to the complexity involved in manufacturing and wastage of material during manufacturing.
Even after considering the effect of better temperature coefficient and an increase in BoS costs with poly panels, plants turn out to cost competitive with poly panels as costs are low. That is why poly panels are the preferred option by the majority globally. Unless there are no space constraints.
Polycrystalline panels require more space compared to monocrystalline panels to produce the same amount of power. But, poly panels are cheaper than mono panels. If there are no constraints in terms of space, polycrystalline panels are a better choice. Besides, the type of panel, several parameters influence the performance and cost of solar panels. Our blog on How to Select The Best Solar Panels discusses them in detail.