Which solar panel type best suits your needs – monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous thin film?

by Solar Choice Staff on January 29, 2009

in Installation advice,Solar Panels/Modules,Solar System Products,What are the right solar PV cells for you?

While there are numerous brands on the market, there are essentially just three types of technologies involved in making a solar panel – monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film amorphous. The following descriptions set out the relative advantages or disadvantages of each of these three types.

Remember: the best solar panels may be different depending on your needs and location!

Many Solar Choice customers are initially uncertain which solar panel type best suits their individual needs. Every household has different energy needs, and each state has different solar incentive policies. Solar Choice helps make the decision easier by providing free solar power installation quote comparisons Australia-wide, offering discounted rates that are better than going to the installer direct. This enables us to best help you make the right decision about your solar power system.

Monocrystalline

- Good power-to-size ratio: efficiency typically within the range of 135-170 Watts per m2 (13-17%, with notable exceptions).

- Outstanding performance in cooler conditions.

- Some leading units now have over 18% conversion efficiency.

- Previously the most commonly used technology in the world, with over 50 years of technological development.

- Excellent life span / longevity. Usually come with a 25yr warranty.

Polycrystalline

- Good efficiency: typically 120-150 Watts per m2 (12-15%, with notable exceptions).

- Generally speaking, marginally less expensive to produce than monocrystalline.

- Slightly better performance in hotter conditions (lower heat derating coefficient)

- Excellent life span / longevity. Usually come with 25yr warranty.

NB: Monocrystalline solar panels are not necessarily ‘better ‘ or more efficienct than polycrystalline, as many in Australia believe. Read more: Monocrystalline vs polycrystalline silicon solar cells – Busting some myths.

Amorphous Thin Film

- Low conversion efficiency: typically 60-80 Watts/m2 (6-8%, with notable exceptions).

- Expected lifespan is less than crystalline panels.

- Optimal efficiency in hot weather, less effective in cooler conditions.

- 3-6 month ‘breaking in’ period where long term output is exceeded.

- Requires 2-3 times more panels and surface area for same output as crystalline.

- Ideal for example for inland Australia, where conditions are hot and vacant space abounds. (More about thin-film solar cell technology.)

How important is panel efficiency in your system?

Remember that, especially if you have a large roof, panel efficiency may not be the most important thing for you to worry about. It is more important to consider your system as a whole. The ultimate cost and performance of your system will depend not only on the panels you use, but also your solar inverter, your installer’s labour costs, and the orientation of your home’s roof and tilt angle of your panels.

Further reading:

Read about some major solar power panel brands and technologies

Read about what questions to ask when considering buying a solar power system

Read about one way to compare solar panels

Read more about monocrystalline vs polycrystalline panels

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

{ 46 comments }

Rob Wales April 18, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Great information! but could you tell me if their is any significant difference between the brands of Mono Panels, ‘Schott, BP, Sunpower, Sanyo, Kyocera, CEEG, in performance or Durability?

admin April 20, 2009 at 11:49 am

Rob,

The efficiency of solar cells depends on their purity, and is a measure of what percentage of sunlight hitting the cell is converted to electricity. Ultrahigh-purity silicon is expensive and difficult to produce, and so the higher efficiency panels are significantly more expensive.

The cell efficiencies of the panels you refer to – and there are many other monocrystalline panels on the market that Solar Choice approved installers use – are as follows:

CEEG – 17%-18%

See also – http://www.ceeg.cn/sst/English/ProductShow.asp?ID={50CDF67D-EB08-427C-9214-0971DD4D6323}

BP Solar – 12-15% depending on which country of manufacture

See also: http://www.naturaltechnology.com.au/BP-Solar-Modules/BP485.pdf

Also Sharp – 16.4%

See also – http://solarpanelsrus.com/sharp_nt_175u1.html

Sunpower – highest in market – 21.5%

Kyocera – 16%

See also – http://www.etaengineering.com/panels/kyocera.shtml

Sanyo – up to 18%

See also – http://www.sanyo-solar.eu/product-info/hit-technology.html

Schott panels – 16.4% (mostly polycrysalline)

See also: http://www.affordable-solar.com/rwe-schott-SAPC-175.175.watt.solar.panels.htm

And http://www.schott.com/photovoltaic/english/download/schott_efg_155-160-165_0708_e.pdf

As far as durabililty is concerned, all the above panels, as with all panels used by Solar Choice installers, come with a 25yr warranty – meaning that they will still be producing at least 80% of their output after that time. All have also undergone rigorous testing for hail damage, heat exposure etc.

Hope this helps!

Angus Gemmell
Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Peter May 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm

I have just been quoted on Amorphous Thin Film indicating that they are the best for my installation in the adelaide hills because of available room on my roof and are the best for a little cloud cover. Reading the article about monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous thin film?
I do not know if this so?

Leon Richards March 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Peter,
Now nearly one year on, what answers did you find? I too live in the Adelaide Hills and am curious to know on the most efficient panel to go for.

Geoff June 1, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I have also been given similar advice as Peter. Been told that Polycrystalline is better than Monocrystalline, and Thin Film is even better ie: cloudy days and cheaper but need more panels. I also confused?

Fred Leaney January 5, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Hi Geoff,

I read your enquiry below posted on June 1 2009. I will be installing in a new house close to the beach and was wondering whether you came to grips with what the different suppliers were suggesting.

Cheers,

Fred

I have also been given similar advice as Peter. Been told that Polycrystalline is better than Monocrystalline, and Thin Film is even better ie: cloudy days and cheaper but need more panels. I also confused?

Geoff June 1, 2009 at 11:07 pm

What about NESL and Suntech panels?

Jim December 17, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Hi Geoff,
NESL panels are the best I have seen on the market, having been in the position to compare a few brands with each other.
I know of a lady in Rockhampton who has a 1.52kW rated system, and during recent stormy weather, still produced over 9 kilowatt hours for the day! This may be an exception, and is far above what one would normally expect to see, but still!

Also, coupling NESL mono-crystalline panels with CMS inverters seems to be about the most efficient option. Testing that our firm has conducted shows the CMS (Carbon Management Solutions) to be the best performing inverter (at least in the Rockhampton region.

Hope this is helpful.

MCE Services February 19, 2010 at 7:45 pm

It all comes down to application. If you have small space and can get ideal angles then a mono-crystaline panel like Yangzhou Tianhua Pv-Tech brand is the go.
If you have a bit of extra space and are looking at a slightly cheeper option than poly Like a Schott model is the go but it is no way better than mono as they have the same charecteristics, if you take them from ideal angles or have low irradience then they will both produce low power output. If you have larger roofspace, less than ideal andgles or low irrediance in your area than thin film is the way to go I reccomend the schott solar ASI product. It all comes down to if your installer/designer knows what they are doing they should match the best product to the application.

Business Energy Australia August 23, 2010 at 6:48 am

Thanks everyone! I highly recommend the video guides I link to on this site. It was the best investment I made since I retired and I keep raking in the benefits every month because I don’t pay for energy!

Matt Ryan September 20, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Hi

Ive read above and have been quoted on 60 REC PE multi- crystalline cells from Norway. Apparently the absolute best according to my installer.
i notice you dont mention these in the above blog, are these relatively new, do you recommend them?

Cheers Matt
0411895261

admin April 18, 2011 at 4:10 am

Hi Matt,
It sounds like you’re referring to a brand of panels as opposed to the more generic type of panel, which is what this article was about. For a link to list of Clean Energy Council-approved products and installers, please see this previous article of ours.

KATHY November 17, 2010 at 8:47 am

Hello,

I have a big roof which gets all day sun (north facing). I am wondering where and what to use. I live in Hobart so lots of cloud cover year round ??

Also can you please clarify do I need the hotwater cylinder also or does the panel just pay into the grid.

The rebates in Tasmania (the green state!!) are low, and if I do this I would like to think it is going to be beneficial to the dwelllers in the house.

Cheeers

admin November 17, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Hey Kathy,

You could definitely think about Solar Collectors for Water Heating (Solar Hot Water) or Solar Panels for Electricity (Photovoltaics). Of course this depends on how much space you have and how much demand you would like to have reduced.

It is ideal to have a hot water cylinder for storage of the hot water that you generate through your solar collectors but this does not go back into the grid. The electricity generated by the Photovoltaics goes back into the grid.

Both technologies receive RECs but only the solar panel receives the feed-in-tariff for the production of electricity. These are both beneficial to the home as talked about in – http://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/what-is-environmental-performance-disclosure.html

Jim December 17, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Hi Kathy,

For Solar Hot Water, you could consider a closed circuit system like Solahart’s KF or LSCS systems (or a similar from a different brand if you can find one)- both designed to operate very efficiently in cooler or lower solar gain areas.

Solar Power is going to be beneficial to anyone who installs it. While you power usage may not increase, your power bill will- price increases will not stop!

Ingrid November 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Response for Kathy – I am moving to Dodges Ferry in May June next year and am currently making inquiries e solar energy as I do not want any electricity bills – not to worried about feeding back into the grid – I am enterly CONFUSED . . . such as wide range of quotations, ranging from $3,000 to $10.000.
NuEngery quoting $3,000 for 1.5kw
EnergieMatters quoting $4,300 for 1.64 kw

I would be intersted in learning what you will/or consider to choose.
Regards
Ingrid

admin November 28, 2010 at 6:06 pm

If you could please fill out the following form then one our representatives can call you at a time of your convenience and thus allow us to better understand your needs and give you a variety of solutions: Click Here

warren November 27, 2010 at 5:20 pm

We have recently fitted a 2Kw monocrystalline system. The system is fitted on a North facing ,sloped and tiled, roof ; todate,and in full sun, the best output we have noted is 1364Kw. Is this OK ?

admin November 28, 2010 at 5:20 pm

A drop in performance can be due to several things:
1) Shading on the panel from a neighboring tree or from a neighboring building during certain hours during the day that was not there when installing the panels
2) There could be a bit of accumulation of dust so you might need to wash the panels
3) There could be a crack on your panel (which you will need to physically inspect to notice)

Balarabe December 23, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Thanks

helen January 31, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Can you advise please. I live in the city in Perth and therefore have very good sunlight time. I have a reasonably large house though gabled roof areas but would easily fit 14 panels without hassle. I want a quality product so was thinking of Kyocera perhaps and a good quality inverter. I am thinking 3 kw on roof but could go 4 kw depending on cost.
Your opinion and suggestions would be appreciated.

Steve February 5, 2011 at 10:17 am

Hi,
I just had my 2.2kw system finally connected to the grid. 12 Monocrystalline 185w panels and it only produces at peak (in full sun light ) 1450w. I believe there maybe something wrong with the system or the way it was installed. I have for blanks of 3 panels all facing north and tilted. I have seen a 2.4kw system produce 2.2kw peak, it was awesome.
Steve

admin February 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Hi Steve. Please see my reply to your other comment in this blog entry.

Kel February 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Has anyone heard of the GSP-230w Solar Panels from Zhejiang Global Photovoltaic Technology, they are a Polycrystalline Cell with a 11.9% panel efficiency.
I am having trouble deciding whether to go for a 3kW system using the above panels and a 3kW inverter or opt for a 1.9kW using the Eging EGM190w panels and still sticking with a 3kW inverter for later expansion.

So many choices and the prices vary quite dramatically.

Denis March 1, 2011 at 9:04 am

I am wanting to use Solar Power for my new home being built and find the whole process very confussing with too many companies out there but no real comparison on the different makes and brands. Would be very interested hearing of other who have gone through this process and found a good outcome that they are happy with.

Jason April 2, 2011 at 11:35 pm

I am looking at installing a 3kw system and have been told that polycrystaline panels are better than monocrystaline panels is this true??
Is the schott polycrystaline panels any better than the conergy monocrystaline panels??
We have also been told the blacker the panel the better, but then the solar sales people have told us they need to be blue, which is correct??

admin April 4, 2011 at 1:17 am

Hi Jason,

Thanks for the comment. When you talk about which panel is ‘better’, are you referring to overall panel quality/durability, or are you talking about efficiency? Different panels have different lifespans and characteristics. There may be a difference between brands, but generally speaking the differences between poly- and mono-crystalline panels are as outlined above in the article. The colour of the panels may make a slight difference in the efficiency of your array, but if you have plenty of roof space, the efficiency may not be so important. Please see this newer blog entry for more information on efficiency, roof space, and the different types of panels that are available.

Thanks!

James Whittaker July 24, 2011 at 1:15 am

I have been thinking of installing Solar Panels and would like to know if the poly or mono panels would work better were i live, i’m from the North East and would love to here from someone if the mono panels work better in the cloudy type of weather that we have up here? I know that the poly type panels are cheaper but i have been told that even with the best of panels installed that it is the inverter that makes all the difference to converting the energy into power. The inverter i have been led to believe is the best is the SMA Sunnyboy or the Power One Aurora models, and that for the panels, Sanyo or Schucco. Please if you could help me out that would be great.

James Whittaker

admin July 25, 2011 at 10:58 am

Hi James,

While monocrystalline panels do tend to be slightly more efficient in partial-shading conditions, it’s more important to pay attention to the make of the individual model of solar panels that you’re looking at. Each make of solar panel has its own characteristics depending on how the manufacturer has designed and constructed the component.

Sanyo HIT panels are actually hybrid crystalline/amorphous silicon, which makes them good performers in hot conditions. Sanyo also has a range of other solar panels which you can look into. Likewise with Shueco, there are a number of different makes of panels. In fact, there are hundreds of brands of panels available on the Australian market, and it’s up to you to decide which ones are right for your location, home, and budget. (Unless of course your installer only deals with certain brands.)

The important things for you to consider are:
-how much roof space do you have available? if you have a lot, you may not necessarily need high-efficiency panels. In fact, amorphous silicon functions relatively well in low-light conditions, although it is less efficient and takes up more space than mono- or poly-cyrstalline solar.
-How well do the panels perform in hot conditions? You’re in the north-east, so temperature may be an issue.
-If you’re by the coast–are your panels (or more importantly, their frames) corrosion-resistant?
-What kinds of warranties are on offer from the installer and the panel manufacturer?

As for SMA Sunny Boy vs Aurora Power One, you’ll want to ask some of the same questions and balance price against quality. They are both well-known and dependable inverter brands. (We have written an article about Sunny Boy inverters, by the way.)

Mark September 18, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Hi,
I have just been quoted $19500 for a 4KW System. My Household are very much consumers hence the size of the system. The Company has quoted on a 21 x 190w Mono-chrystalline NESL panels with a 25 year warranty supported by a 4.4kw Growacc Inverter offering 10years warranty. My home faces north in Brisbane and would average at least 8 hours of sunlight year round. Having spent some time researching Solar technology and manufacturers available i would consider the German Technology to be proven (Even tho its manufactured in China) but am i being quoted excessively?
Regards Mark

admin September 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Hi Mark,

Our brokers have found 4kW systems coming in at around 12k, give or take a thousand. The components you are being offered, while not bottom-shelf brands, are not top-of-the-line either.

Remember Solar Choice provides free solar power system quote comparisons and brokering service. If you have any other questions, feel free to fill out one of our forms or give us a ring on 1300 78 72 73.

Ali September 22, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Hi

I live in Melbourne and thinking of getting solar panels. I am looking for 3 kw. I was advice that multi crystaline are better than mono as multi can still generate electricity in cloudy conditions. Any suggestion please??

admin September 23, 2011 at 10:22 am

Hello Ali,

Thanks for the comment. Although there are differences between monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels, the manufacturer is a more important consideration than mono vs poly technology. There are hundreds of brands of solar panels available in Australia, and many of them offer both mono and polycrystalline panels. It is important to know which brands are reputable and which are not.

We are happy to help you out. Our serviced is cost- and obligation-free. Give us a ring on 1300 78 72 73 or fill out the Solar Quote Comparison request form to the right of the page.

Ezenwora, Joel A. February 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm

You’re doing a good job, keep it up!
Please I would want to know how to physically identify mono-crystalline, poly-crystalline and amorphous solar panels when the three are kept together.
Thanks,
-Joel.

admin February 6, 2012 at 11:28 am

Thanks for the comment, Joel.

Generally speaking, monocrystalline panels are a solid dark/black colour, whereas polycrystalline panels are a glittery, patchy, marbelised blue colour. The exception is Kyocera’s HD modules, which are a dark blue polycrystalline that closely resembles monocrystalline technology in colour.

Glen June 11, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hello I live in New Zealand and I am wanting a mobile sola system for a mobile home, As it will be used in summer and winter both low light and bright sun I am not sure what would be best suited for my use, I only need a small system but as I am in a mobile home I don’t have a lot of space to align for best performance.

Temp here ranges from
15-30 degrees C in summer with bright sunlight and
0-20 degrees C in winter with low light or cloudy days.

could you please give any advice before I buy ?.
Thanks Glen

admin September 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Hi Glen,

Although some of the general solar panel advice applies to both residential solar and the panels you would require for your mobile home the technology and set up is completely different. Our best recommendation is you search for a supplier in New Zealand who should be able to offer you further information and advice.

Sorry we can’t be of more help and good luck with your search.

Hayden August 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Now in 2012 what has changed? Just brief

admin August 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Hi Hayden,

The 3 technologies in the article are still the dominant solar PV technologies on the market, but the distinction between mono and poly has lessened. You can read more in this article: Polycrystalline vs Monocrystalline solar panels.

CHRIS ROUTLEY September 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm

These entries are all OLD – at least a year or two. The site itself seems to be 4 years old. I am sure there have been advances in that time, and I don’t want to buy obsolete technology. Any suggestions please?

Solar Choice September 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Hi Chris,

Unfortunately general internet searches can throw up results from a few years ago, instead of more up to date information. We’re constantly posting articles relating to developments within the industry and changes in technology which should provide you with some additional information.

If you’re looking to get more information about what solar power system would be best for you I’d recommend filling in the FREE Solar Quote Comparison to the right of the page or you can call us directly on 1300 78 72 73. We’ll send you a quote for up to 7 installers in your area and assign you your own personal Solar Broker who will be able to talk you through different installers and products to find a solution that’s right for you.

Bruce Rathbone October 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I think you might have a typo on this page.

Your statement copied here below I think should read 6 – 8% (not 60 – 80%)

“Amorphous Thin Film
- Lowest efficiency: typically 60-80 Watts/m2 (60-80%, with notable exceptions).”

But I’ve been wrong before!!!! – so my apologies if I have read it incorrectly.

Solar Choice October 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Hi Bruce,

Thanks for the comment and thanks for pointing out the error! Your instinct was correct–it was indeed a typo. I’ve altered it to read 6-8%.

Fabian March 7, 2013 at 3:22 am

Hello,

whitch type of technology is better for intallations next to the sea, with salt conditions?

Solar Choice March 7, 2013 at 4:21 am

Hi Fabian.

Whether a panel is mono or poly does not matter with regard to proximity to the ocean/salt corrosion. Instead, watch out for ‘salt mist corrosion’ certifications on individual products. Installers in your area should have some products on offer that have undergone the proper testing and received their certification.

James (admin) December 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Hi there,
Thanks for the comment. Actually, it’s not just amorphous solar panels through which you can send electricity back into the grid–this is actually true with any solar power system that you install that is connected to the grid, whether they be amorphous, monocrystaline, or polycrystaline. This feeding back of energy is called a feed-in tariff. Feed in tariffs are explained in this previous blog entry, and the current rates are listed in this one.
-James Martin

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