The best-known part of a solar power system is the Solar Panels.
Solar energy is probably the most popular renewable energy in the world today.
The solar power industry is ever-growing, and as always, new technology is being produced all the time.
This guide will help you understand how solar panels work, how they function as part of a solar power system and which panels would best suit your needs.
Here's the breakdown:
- How Do They Work?
- Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline
- Solar Panel Sizing
- Which Brands Are Best?
- Is Your Roof Suitable?
- Let’s Talk Cost
- How The Panel Fits In With A System
Lets got from the top
Are You A Beginner?
As always, we'll start off with the fundamentals.
If you're not new to our guides and know the jargon used in the solar industry, you may want to scroll past this section.
The word 'photovoltaic' is made up of two words. The Greek word 'phōs' means 'light' and 'volt', the electromotive force unit.
The definition of photovoltaic means to produce energy from the sun.
Photovoltaic Array refers to your solar panel setup.
A group of solar panels whose combined voltage does not exceed the maximum MPPT range.
This way of connecting solar panels increases the amps.
An MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) tracks the voltage coming from the PV array and maximises the energy produced by the array.
If you have any questions that have not been covered in this article, you can always contact us.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Understanding the science
I don’t want to bore you with the details so, I’ll give you a basic rundown on how they work below.
Photons from sunlight cause free electrons to move through a circuit by forcing the electrons from their bonds in the N-Type layer to fill voids in the P-Type layer, generating electricity.
To learn more about the inner workings of solar panels, watch this video:
If you'd like to read in-depth about solar panels, you can do so here.
What are Solar Panels Made from?
Solar panels are made of different components.
But, the heart of the solar panel is the solar cell. Solar cells are made from an abundant resource; silicon.
An intricate manufacturing process produces either Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline solar cells.
Monocrystalline cells are made up of solid, uniformed silicon slices, whereas polycrystalline cells are made of small silicon pieces fused together.
Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline
What are the differences
That's why it's good to learn about the different cells available .
Each has its place in the solar market, but the application will dictate which product is best for you .
The Monocrystalline panel is cut from a single crystal structure. Out of the different varieties, they are the oldest technology. The solar cells have a uniform flat colour.
Note: They are more expensive per watt but are more efficient; this means you can install fewer high-efficiency panels.
Residential and Commercial projects
If there is limited space available
- Most efficient
- More heat resistant
- Most expensive per watt
The polycrystalline panel is a newer technology. Due to the cells being made up of fused together pieces of silicon, they have a less uniform appearance.
They tend to be the most affordable with the lowest price per watt; although they put out a little less power, they are becoming more efficient.
Note: Their production is better for the environment as they require fewer resources to make, making them the 'greener' option.
For Grid-Tied systems
Best Solar Panel price
Looking for the "greenest" option
- Most affordable
- Require less silicon
- Least efficient
Solar Panel Sizing
How many panels can you fit?
If you have little space for panels, you will need a higher power rating panel , like a 400W panel.
If you have a lot of space, then you can look at having more lower power rating panels .
Solar Panel sizes are changing all the time for bigger and better panels. For instance, the panels we now sell are vastly bigger in rating than the panels we were selling between 2 and 3 years ago.
Naturally, with the betterment in solar panel technology, obsolete tech has now been abandoned. Therefore, making it near impossible to find those 180W panels you bought back in 2018.
Adding To An Old Array
You may have an existing solar array and need to add solar panels a few years down the line, how will we still be able to help you?
Voltage plays a huge roll in being able to add to your array. Absolutely any panel with more than a 5V difference will simply not work and will cause you a lot of frustration. Additionally, it is important to say that your adding larger panels to an array that contains smaller panels will see your new panels performing as well as the old panels.
However, if you have an inverter with multiple MPPTs and have an MPPT available, you can add whatever panel you'd like.
For First Time Buyers
In conclusion, when choosing panels for a new setup, our advice would be to ensure you choose the biggest size panel that your inverter will allow. Moreover, if you want to maximise your array later, do it within 6-12 months after buying your current setup. Because, there are no guarantees that the size panel you want will be available.