nless you're totally new to solar, you might have noticed that monocrystalline (mono-Si) panels are generally more expensive yet more popular than their polycrystalline alternatives. But why is that? Simple: monocrystalline solar cells are more efficient and cost-effective. In this article, we will run through some of the basics of monocrystalline solar panels and discuss its advantages in little more detail.
What are monocrystalline cells?
A solar panel, as you probably know, consists of photovoltaic (PV) cells – small devices that convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. When light strikes the surface of the cells, the electrons inside them break free from standard positions and start moving. This flow of electrons within the cells is what creates an electric current.
Solar cells are manufactured from semiconductors, as their intermediate conductivity is necessary for generating electricity. The most common semiconductor material for solar cells is crystalline silicon (c-Si), which currently holds a leading position in the PV market with a share of over 90%. It has been widely used in the production of solar cells for decades thanks to its high conversion rate and cost-efficiency.
There are two main types of c-Si solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. As the name suggests, monocrystalline cells are cut from a single crystal, while polycrystalline options consist of several crystals in a single solar cell.
How are mono-Si solar panels manufactured?
First, raw material is purified from quartz sand, collected into solid rocks, and melted together to form cylindrical ingots. These ingots are later sliced into thin discs called wafers and coated with anti-reflective components so that solar cells capture the light instead of reflecting it.
To make monocrystalline solar cells from wafers, manufacturers add thin metallic lines for better conductivity, thereby creating a grid-like pattern on the surface. After that, solar cells are linked together with metal connectors and assembled into solar panels.
Why are monocrystalline solar cells considered superior?
Mono-Si solar panels are regarded as a premium product for several reasons. The first one is higher efficiency: monocrystalline cells usually have an efficiency rate ranging from 15% to 20%, while some cutting-edge models even reach 25%. By contrast, the efficiency of polycrystalline cells is typically in the 15-18% range. Thanks to the higher efficiency of monocrystalline cells, mono-Si panels take up less space, as you need fewer panels for the same output.
Another selling point is a longer lifespan. Solar panels made of monocrystalline cells last 25–40 years on average, while their polycrystalline counterparts last only 25–35 years.
And finally, most people find monocrystalline panels more aesthetically pleasing. They appear black to the eye because of the higher purity of silicon used in monocrystalline cells, thanks to which mono-Si modules blend with dark rooftops much better.