Emphasis on green (solar) energy has been on the rise, with continental and global summits taking place regularly, and in different places. This is largely due to the convenience regarding safety, efficiency, the need to use clean energy, and cost-effectiveness it brings about in comparison to other forms of energy. It is imperative, however, first and foremost to understand how solar is converted into energy through solar panels and what exactly these panels are made of regarding materials and technology. The most commonly used solar panels in today’s market are made of polycrystalline, monocrystalline, and thin film silicon which is also known as amorphous.
This post takes an in-depth look into how solar panels are made and reflects the solar panel manufacturing process.
Making Solar Panels – The Process
Going by what established solar manufacturers like https://residential.freedomsolarpower.com/ use, silicon cells are the central components in the manufacture of photovoltaics. Despite being categorized as a non-metallic element in the periodic table; silicon can convert sunlight into instant electricity through its conductive properties. Once silicon cells interact with light, what happens next is the photovoltaic effect (where electrons are rendered mobile initiating electric flow).
Silicon cell structures come in various forms including:
• Polycrystalline (multiple)
• Monocrystalline (single)
• Amorphous (non-crystalline thin film)
The polycrystalline technology involves melting several silicon cells collectively and re-fusing them into the panel. These panels are not as efficient as monocrystalline panels meaning they also come cheaper. They have a blue tint, quite distinct from the black hue of the monocrystalline cells.
As the name suggests, monocrystalline panels are based on a single silicon block in a process involving slicing individual silicon wafers that can be attached to a solar panel. The process is rather tasking and intensive as compared to polycrystalline and amorphous technology, and that explains why these panels don’t come cheap. They are distinctively black aesthetic in appearance
These are uniquely assembled non-crystalline based panels that use thin films. Silicon cells are attached directly to metal, glass, or plastic blocks. Unlike other panels, they are thin and bendable, which makes them rather versatile. However, they are far less inefficient compared to poly and mono cells.
Materials used for manufacturing solar panels
Normally, at least six different materials are required in the manufacture of a functioning solar panel. Regardless of whether you’re taking a DIY approach or you are doing it for commercial purposes, the technology and materials used do not vary substantially. Materials include:
• Aluminum metal frame
• 12V standard wire
• Bus wire
• Silicon cells
• Casing sheet (glass)
For purposes of durability and silicon PV protection, a glass casing at the face of the panel is used. The panel also has an insulation casing and a back sheet, both of which help in the regulation of heat and humidity within the panel. Inefficiency in a solar panel can be caused largely by irregular temperature increases consequently resulting in lowering power output. Thus, insulation is paramount and special emphasis must be applied to ensure that optimum light is captured without compromising performance through overheating.