Solar energy is a great way to make an eco-friendly choice, while reducing energy bills. Solar panels are popping up everywhere in both commercial and residential capacities. While solar panels are now becoming a standard in modern life, the science and technology behind solar power is still a mysterious black box to most people. Let's take a look at how solar panels work and what exactly solar panels are made of.
What are Solar Panels Made of?
All solar panels are made of silicon, which has been used as an electrical component for decades. Silicon is an ideal non-metal because of its high conductive properties.
At their core, all solar panels are made of silicon, which has ideal conductive properties. Even though silicon is conductive, it is a non-metal element, which makes it a desirable material to create thin, film-like cells used in solar panels.
Silicon has a special property that allows it to turn sunlight into energy. When sunlight hits a silicon surface, it excites the electrons within the material. The excited, moving electrons create a current, which, in turn, creates a flow of electricity. This process is known as the photovoltaic effect. With the addition of metal receptors and wires, this electricity can be harnessed and redirected into everyday use. Silicon used within solar panels falls into one of three categories: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or amorphous.
Monocrystalline solar panels are made from one continuous block of silicon. The silicon is then cut into a wafer-like format. These individual wafer sized pieces are then individually affixed to the solar panel. Comparing all the solar panel types, the monocrystalline is the most energy efficient, able to convert the most amount of captured sunlight into usable electricity. It follows, though, that monocrystalline solar panels are also the most expensive to produce. These panels are typically black and have a very sleek look.
Alternatively, polycrystalline solar panels are made by melting individual crystals together. The silicon molecules become melted in the processed, but are refused once they are affixed to the panel itself. This varies from the monocrystalline solar panel which is one continuous block of silicon. Using the polycrystalline solar panel is a much more budget-friendly option. Unfortunately, the downside is these types of solar panels are not as energy efficient. Typically, polycrystalline solar panels have a slight blue hint to them.
Lastly, amorphous silicon cells are also used to create solar panels. These panels still use silicon cells, but not in a crystalline structure. Instead, the silicon cells are attached to a glass, plastic, or metal substrate, The benefit of this is that the manufacturer can create an extremely thin and flexible profile. Unlike the monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, amorphous panels are flexible and can be used in a multitude of applications. Unfortunately, compared to the other methods, amorphous solar panels are the least energy efficient option.
The team at Gausman & Moore is passionate about renewable energy. This includes everything from wind power generation to solar power. Whether you have a new construction project or are remodeling an existing building, our team of engineers can help you include renewable energy in your building. To learn more about our services, contact our team today! We have offices in Los Angeles, California; Duluth, Minnesota; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.