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Exploring Different Types of Solar Cells and Solar Plates

different types of solar cells

Can you imagine that just one minute of the sun’s power will meet the world’s energy needs for an entire year? Surprisingly, the sun radiates more energy in 24 hours than the global population consumes in 27 years. 

This astounding potential positions solar energy not only as an incredibly reliable and sustainable source but also as a cost-effective and efficient one. The key lies in the careful selection of solar panels, matching them seamlessly with the environment. 

The solar industry has made remarkable strides, investing in techniques to harness, utilise, and store solar energy efficiently. The secret behind this is the different types of solar cells and plates. Let’s dive in! 

Different Types of Solar Cells

Contrary to common misconceptions, solar panels vary significantly. In India, four distinct module types exist, differing in production, appearance, cost, and efficiency. Understanding these differences simplifies the buying process.

1. Monocrystalline Modules

You can easily spot monocrystalline solar panels as they use a single crystal silicon. They command attention for their superior efficiency and power output. The production process involves intricate crystalline formation, contributing to higher costs. Here are its features:

  • These panels, with efficiency exceeding 20%, are available in higher power wattages, reaching up to 600 Wp. 
  • Their half-cut cell technology enhances energy generation, even in shaded conditions. 
  • These panels have a recognisable distinctive appearance. 
  • They have coloured and cylindrical panels that optimise cutting-edge efficiency in solar technology. 
  • These solar cells utilise silicon, a semiconductor, for efficient light-to-electricity conversion.
  • Monocrystalline panels, unlike different types of solar cells, have a single crystal (monocrystalline) and incur higher costs due to complex production and silicon waste. 
  • These panels offer superior efficiency, exceeding 20%, and higher power wattages, up to 600 Wp, resulting in increased energy generation. 

Among the different types of solar cells, mono panels with half-cut cell technology maximise energy output even in shaded conditions. Despite their higher cost, monocrystalline panels boast a distinct appearance, often coloured and cylindrical, providing the highest efficiency levels.

2. Polycrystalline Modules

To manufacture this module, technicians use fragments of silicon crystals. That is why it gets this name- poly-crystalline or multicrystalline module due to the use of poly modules. Here are the features:

  • There is no need to cut these cells into shape and the manufacturers melt the silicon and pour them into square moulds. 
  • Polycrystalline solar panels are a mid-range option both in terms of efficiency and price. 
  • The silicon waste that this production method generates is reusable. You can melt these different types of solar cells together in a mould and slice them into wafers to create solar cells. 
  • The manufacturing process of this is much simpler. This makes the cost of poly dukes less than that of the mono panels.
  • These modules also have an efficiency between 15-17% which is lower than other types of panels. 
  • Poly panels usually have lower wattages and thus have a lower power output. Unlike the mono panels, these have a blue tint. 

There is another option amongst the different types of solar cells that is much lighter than the first two. Let’s see.

3. Thin Film Modules

This is the lightest module compared to the first two. Also, unlike the first two, the thin-film panels do not rely on silicon. Most of the thin-film panels use three specific photovoltaic substances: cadmium telluride (CdTe), amorphous silicon (a-Si) and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). 

To produce the panels, the manufacturers place the material between the two transparent layers of glass or plastic. Here are some of its features:

  • The classification of solar cells depends on their thin size and higher manoeuvrability and these panels are easy to install.
  • These panels are cheaper compared to other types as they are easy to manufacture.
  • They have a small shelf-life and thus are not suitable for residential or commercial purposes. They are mostly used in utility-scale projects.
  • Panels can have a blue or black tint. It depends on the material that the manufacturer uses.
  • These thin-film solar panels, also known as thin-film photovoltaics, are around 100 times thinner. They have amorphous silicon as their main material which has randomly arranged atoms that form a crystalline structure. These films can also have cadmium telluride ((Cd-Te), copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) or organic PV materials as materials. 

Manufacturers layer the photovoltaics to create the modules and they are the cheapest option for producing solar panels. You can laminate these cells onto windows, skylights, roofing tiles and other layers that include glass, metals and polymers./

However, even with this flexibility they lack the same efficiency as regular crystalline cells. Where crystalline silicon cells can produce a 20% efficiency, these different types of solar cells only reach around 7% efficiency. Even the very best CIGS cells barely reach 12% efficiency.

4. MONO PERC Modules

Mono PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell), the last option amongst the types of PV cells, is a relatively newer technology and an upgraded version of the Monocrystalline modules.

These solar plate types are different as they tend to absorb most of the sunlight that passes through them. Conventional modules do not absorb most of the sunlight it receives. Most of it passes through the frame. The Mono PERC module is here to rectify that. Here are its features:

  • Mono PERC modules capture reflected light from the ground
  • It boasts unmatched efficiency and power output compared to other commercially available modules. 
  • However, this superiority comes at a higher cost compared to other panel types in the market.

Mono PERC modules stand out for their ability to harness reflected sunlight, achieving superior efficiency and power output, outperforming competitors in the market.  

On the other hand, there are also the third-generation solar cells. These typically refer to advanced technologies beyond traditional silicon-based cells.

5. Third Generation Solar Cells

These may include organic, dye-sensitised, quantum dot, and perovskite solar cells, exploring innovative materials and concepts for enhanced efficiency and performance. 

Third-generation solar cells often aim to overcome limitations associated with traditional silicon-based technologies. This technology combines the best features of crystalline silicon and thin-film solar to provide high efficiency and improved practicality for use.

It has amorphous silicon, organic polymers or perovskite crystals, and features multiple junctions made up of layers of different semiconducting materials.

These cells have the potential to be cheaper, more efficient and more practical than other types of cells, and be able to achieve around 30% efficiency (with a perovskite-silicon tandem solar cell).

FAQs: Exploring Different Types of Solar Cells and Solar Plates 

What advantages do thin-film solar cells offer in photovoltaic technology?

Assess the unique features of thin-film solar cells, such as flexibility and lightweight design, and understand their applications, efficiency, and potential contributions to advancements in solar energy.

How do solar plates contribute to enhancing solar energy efficiency?

Solar plates capture and convert sunlight into electricity thus enhancing efficiency. Their design and materials optimise energy absorption, supporting the performance of photovoltaic systems and advancing sustainable power generation.

What factors influence the selection of the most suitable solar cell type for a specific application?

 Examine the criteria, including efficiency, cost, space requirements, and environmental considerations, that influence the choice of solar cells and plates in various photovoltaic applications, aiding an informed decision-making for renewable energy projects. 

How do monocrystalline solar cells differ from polycrystalline counterparts?

Monocrystalline solar cells are crafted from a single silicon crystal, offering higher efficiency but at a greater cost. Polycrystalline cells use multiple crystals, providing a cost-effective alternative with slightly lower efficiency.

What are the main types of solar cells used in photovoltaic systems?

The most popular options are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar cells. They differ in efficiency, cost, and suitability for diverse renewable energy applications.


Solar energy presents an astonishing potential, and harnessing it requires strategic devices and planning. When you know the different types of solar cells it become easier to harness this energy efficiently. Explore Sustvest,an investment platform for renewable energy projects, to contribute to a sustainable future.