A solar panel is a delicate piece of technology that is rather complex in structure and composition. With the rise in interest of sun power for homeowners and small businesses, many people are wondering what goes into these modern marvels.
Power cells have two purposes. They have to intake light energy from the sun and convert it into a usable electrical current. They also have to effectively funnel this current into battery storage. There are multiple power cell designs on the market now that accomplish these two functions.
No matter the design, each solar panel is built around silicon disks. The silicon in the cell is cultured from crystals into tubes and then cut into thin layers. Substances called dopants are added to the wafers in trace amounts to give them their electrical properties. Examples of common dopants are boron, arsenic, antimony and phosphorous. These dopants will replace tiny parts of the silicon’s crystal lattice, effectively becoming part of the crystal itself. Occasionally, the dopants will be added as a film across the silicon.
Many power cells are also coated with a substance that increases the cell’s ability to take in energy. An increase in the rate of speed is also helped by this substance. All power cells come with a protective layer of very fine glass that protects the cell from disagreeable weather while permitting the transmission of light.
Multiple cells (sometimes dozens of them) make up a single solar panel. The process of taking in sunlight, absorbing it, and converting it into electrical energy creates a great amount of heat. Less than 25 percent of the energy from the sun is actually processed into electricity, or solar electricity. The rest washes off as dispersal heat. To keep this heat from warping the cell, it is bonded to pieces of thermal concrete that work to direct heat away from the cell.
There are many ways to design a solar panel. There are the monocrystalline silicone cells, polycrystalline silicon cells, amorphous silicon (or film) cells, integrated photovoltaics and thermal cells.
Monocrystalline silicon cells are the best in terms of efficiency. Compared to other power cells, these turn a greater portion of sunlight into energy. These cells are pricier, but the price can be justified because the output of more energy per square foot makes them the go to solution for residential roofing. The cells in monocrystalline silicon are square shaped.
Polycrystalline silicon cells are infused with lower amounts of silicon than monocrystalline cells. The lower amount of silicon means they are less efficient, but they are also less expensive to produce. The cells are often constructed to offset this lessened efficiency. They usually have the same footprint as a monocrystalline cell while possibly being a bit bulkier.
Amorphous cells (film) are very inexpensive to produce and can handle large amounts of heat. These cells are not typically employed for residential projects. They are more likely to see action on power farms.
Integrated photovoltaics are designed to look like roofing tiles that can be integrated into a building’s look. This design comes with a higher price tag and is usually reserved for larger structures.
A thermal (hot water) solar panel is not used for electricity generation. They are instead ideal for heating water for homes or pool usage.