Small-Scale Solar – The Panels For an Off Grid Power Solution

When commercial solar panels first hit the market back in the 70s they were expensive and didn’t put out much power. The good news: that solar prices keep falling – as production ramps, economies of scale kick in and manufacturing becomes less expensive. And as materials science advance, panels become more efficient. At the time of writing, the market is also saturated as supply slightly exceeds demand. Although we can expect prices to continue to fall, if you need power for your home there’s no reason to wait.
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Monocrystalline solar cells are machined from an ingot of silicon and are octagonally-shaped. The uniformity (and purity of the silicon) give monocrystalline cells an efficiency advantage, capturing 15-20% of the energy from a sunbeam. Because it can be difficult for manufacturers to reach the purity necessary for these levels of efficiency, monocrystalline panels can be expensive – but their small size makes them ideal for mounting on a recreational vehicle, small cabin or even in a window.
Screenshot 2015-11-28 15.14.21Polycrystalline solar cells use molten silicon that’s poured into a rectangular mold, giving them a perfectly equilateral shape. Since the process to build polycrystalline cells is simpler, they’re less expensive than monocrystalline cells – but also less efficient, catching 13-16% of the sun’s power. Still, depending on power needs, a moderately-priced panel may be just the right size for your needs.
Screenshot 2015-11-28 15.17.09Thin-film solar cells round out the market, manufactured by depositing a thin layer of silicon onto a polymer film – like the cells found in a solar calculator. Thin-film solar cells are not as efficient as mono- or polycrystalline cells, peaking around 9%. They have a tendency to degrade more quickly. However, they’re easy to mass-produce – so they can be cheap to buy. It makes sense to install these panels if you’ve got a lot of space available, like a large roof or backyard.Screenshot 2015-11-28 15.13.36

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