There are 3 types of Solar Panels and I have them broken down for you below.
Mono-crystalline Solar PanelsMono-crystalline panels use crystalline silicon produced in a large sheet which has been cut to the size of the panel, thus making one large single cell. Metal strips are laid over the entire cell and act as a conductor that captures electrons. Mono panels are slightly more efficient than Polycrystalline panels but they don’t usually cost more than Poly Panels. These types of solar panels are the most efficient as in absorbing sunlight and converting it into electricity. They do somewhat better in lower light conditions then the other types of solar panels.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline solar panels are the most common type of solar panels on the market today. They look a lot like shattered glass. They are slightly less efficient then the mono-crystalline solar panels and less expensive to produce. Polycrystalline panels use a bunch of small cells put together instead of one large cell.
There are a couple different ways a polycrystalline silicon cell can be made:
Cast Poly Silicon
In this process, molten silicon is cast in a large block which, when cooled, can be cut into thin wafers to be used in photovoltaic cells. These cells are then assembled in a panel. Conducting metal strips are then laid over the cells, connecting them to each other and forming a continuous electrical current throughout the panel.
String Ribbon Silicon
String ribbon uses a variation of the polycrystalline production process, using the same molten silicon but slowly drawing a thin strip of crystalline silicon out of the molten form. These strips of photovoltaic material are then assembled in a panel with the same metal conductor strips attaching each strip to the electrical current. This technology saves on costs over standard polycrystalline panels as it eliminates the sawing process for producing wafers. Some string ribbon technologies also have higher efficiency levels than other polycrystalline technologies.
Amorphous solar panels
(Thin film) are produced very differently from crystalline panels. Instead of moulding, drawing or slicing crystalline silicon, the silicon material in these panels have no crystalline structure and can be applied as a film directly on various materials. This material consists of a thin-like film made from molten silicon that is spread directly across large plates of stainless steel or similar material. These types of solar panels have lower efficiency then the other two types of solar panels, and are the cheapest to produce. Advantages of amorphous solar panels over the other two are that they are shadow protected and can be flexible. Shadow protected means that the panel continues to charge while part of the solar panel cells is in a shadow. Variations of this technology use other semiconductor materials like copper indium diselenide (CIS) and cadmium telluride (CdTe). These materials are then connected to the same metal conductor strips used in the other processes, but do not necessarily use the other components typical in photovoltaic panels because they do not require the same level of protection needed for more fragile crystalline cells. This is the reason they can be flexible solar cells. Thin film panels do have several significant drawbacks. They are the least efficient type of solar panel currently available.