Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels
(information from an article written by James Martin on Solar Panels/Modules, Solar System Products) One of the most common comments that we at Ocseola Energy hear from our customers relates to the issue of monocrystalline vs polycrystalline (or ‘multicrystalline’) solar panels. Although monocrystalline panels had the initial advantage of being seen as the superior technology in the market, as time goes on and both technologies improve, it becomes increasingly apparent that the the quality and reliability of the manufacturer is far more important than which of the two technologies is chosen.
What’s the difference? Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline solar panels
The typical monocrystalline solar cell is a dark black colour, and the corners of cells are usually missing as a result of the production process and the physical nature of monocrystalline silicon. Polycrystalline, on the other hand, is identifieable by its signature light or dark blue colour, but not uniformly so: some patches are lighter than others. The differences in appearance come about as a result of the manufacturing process. When solar PV first boomed in places like New Mexico in 2009-2010, monocrystalline solar panels were thought to be superior to polycrystalline solar panels. There were a number of reasons for this thinking. Monocrystalline solar cells have historically had a higher peak efficiency, and were more readily available than polysilicon solar cells. The blanket statement that monocrystalline panels are better than polycrystalline cells, however, is not accurate. Each panel and its manufacturer should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Some comparisons and examples
It is not difficult to find examples that illustrate the above points. The below comparisons are not intended to imply that one panel brand is of higher quality than another, but simply to show that some polycrystalline solar modules are more efficient than monocrystalline ones. First, to compare mid-range products of comparable quality and price, GermanSolar brand 60-cell monocrystalline Premium Line panels have a maximum efficiency of about 15.47%, whereas Conergy’s polycrystalline PowerPlus modules have a maximum efficiency of 14.13%. This is not far off from the 14.9% that Sun-Earth’s 190W monocrystalline module boasts. It is possible to see the same trend in high-end modules as well. For example, premium US manufacturer Sunpower’s monocrystalline panels see peak module efficiencies of up to 20.7% (22.8% efficiency for individual cells), a few percentage points ahead of Suntech’s polycrystalline Pluto technology–certain cells of which were recently confirmed as having hit 20.3% in lab conditions. Although commercially produced modules using Suntech’s Pluto technology will inevitably have lower peak efficiencies than this impressive rate, it still serves to demonstrate that monocrystalline is not an intrinsically better choice than poly.