Picking Solar Panels – Finding the Best Solar Panels

solar panels

The Earth receives more energy from the Sun in one hour than the whole World uses in a whole year.  Time to tap into that. Solar power is used to power everything from calculators to Coast Guard buoys to highway signs to the International Space Station.

You have read Are Solar Panels for me? and Solar Panel Installation – Planning and are ready for more details. Photovoltaic Solar panels were invented at Bell Labs in 1953. They have evolved over the years and several different types of solar panels exist, and choosing between then is confusing.  No one vendor will have access to all products, so you will have to do some shopping around to find the best solar panels.

Monocrystalline or Polycrystalline Panels

These solar panels are made either from single crystal cells or stringing ribbon of multiple crystals. They are the classic version of solar panels and are rated for good efficiency, around 12-13% power conversion, and a Long lifespan, possibly 30 years+?  Sunpower has a model with a very high 19.3% efficiency.  Monocrystalline panels are less efficient in hotter climates and work best in unobstructed sun. A panel’s power will drop by 50% if a even one cell on the panel is half shaded. Temperatures typically above 75 degrees F cause most solar panel power generation to decrease. Solar panel suppliers include: Sharp, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Kyocera, Schott, SolarWorld, SunTech, Sunpower, bp solar, Mitsubishi electric, Evergreen solar.

Thin Film Panels

Less efficient than the Crystal Panels, but they much thinner and easier to make.  Less efficient than monocrystalline, at 10-12% efficiency. They work better when you have slight shading and are not affected by hot weather as much as monocrystalline. Major Drawback of performance degradation over time.  Possible lifespans of 10 years. Suppliers include: Nanosolar, Unisolar

Hybrid Panels

Hybrids of single crystalline silicon surrounded by ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers.  Produces 10% or more electricity  (kWh) than conventional crystalline silicon solar panels at the same temperature. Good efficiency levels of 16%. Hybrid Solar Panel Suppliers include: Sanyo


Solar Panel Quality Control

With the falling prices of solar panels, companies are being squeezed for profits. Recent audits have found that some solar panel manufacturers have been cutting corners. Defect rates have been averaging 8% on unshipped panels, while some have defect rates as high as 20%. These companies are fighting to stay in business. When considering a solar electric power system purchase, be sure to understand the warranty and the manufacturer’s reputation.

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    April 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I have been searching the web to find a pane in the 80-120 watt range and there seems to be a huge price difference. I would expect some variation in price but over 100% differences seem odd. Is there something I am missing.

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    Paul I.
    May 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    where can I go to get honest information on the efficiency ratings, watt production ratings and negative tolerance
    as well as cost of solar panels. I own a commercial building in NJ and will be making a decision this week on what system to purchase for my building. Is there a federal
    agency that provides this info or is there and organization
    like Consumers report that does this. Thanks for anyone’s input.

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      easy eco blog
      June 3, 2011 at 9:20 am

      I think the best bet is to have each solar installer who is bidding on the contract, give you all that information.

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    July 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I’m trying to pick a solar panel to power a muffin fan (computer fan) for my shed, it’s a 12VDC 0.32A unit. Is this even feasible? Do you know of a place I could find a tutorial or someone to help do the calculations so I know what panels to buy? Thanks.

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