What is Solar Panels?

April 26, 2023

1. What is Solar Panels?

A solar panel, also known as a photo-voltaic (PV) module or PV panel, is an assembly of photovoltaic solar cells mounted in a (usually rectangular) frame. Solar panels capture sunlight as a source of radiant energy, which is converted into electric energy in the form of direct current (DC) electricity.

A neatly organized collection of solar panels is called a photovoltaic system or solar array. Arrays of a photovoltaic system can be used to generate solar electricity that supplies electrical equipment directly, or feeds power back into an alternate current (AC) grid via an inverter system.This electricity can then be used to power homes, buildings, and other applications or stored in batteries for later use. As a renewable and sustainable source of energy, solar panels play an important role in reducing reliance on fossil fuels and help reduce carbon emissions.

2. The Structure of Solar Panels

Solar Panels consist of a large number of solar cells and use light energy (photons) from the Sun to generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect. It also includes backsheet, frame and junction box, and maybe concentrator, all of them work together to ensure the normal operation of the solar panels.

What is solar cells?

Solar cells are electronic devices that convert sunlight into electrical energy by the photovoltaic effect and most of them are wafer-based crystalline silicon cells or thin-film cells. Also, high-cost, high-efficiency, and close-packed rectangular multi-junction (MJ) cells are usually used in solar panels on spacecraft, as they offer the highest ratio of generated power per kilogram lifted into space.The cells are usually connected electrically in series, one to another to the desired voltage, and then in parallel to increase current.

What is backsheet?

As a polymer or a combination of polymers with various additives, backsheet is designed to provide a barrier between the solar cells and the outside environment. From which we can see the backsheet is a critical component in the durability, efficiency, and longevity of a solar panel.

What is encapsulant?

Solar cells are often coated with an encapsulant, which is typically a thin layer of a polymer material that is applied over the solar cells and the backsheet. Generally the most common polymer used in encapsulating solar modules is ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), which is durable enough to protect the solar cells from any kind of damage and extending the lifespan of the solar panel.

What is frame?

The frame of a solar panel refers to the structural support that holds and protects the solar cells, wiring and other components within the panel. It is made of aluminum or other lightweight materials to prevent panels from extreme weather impact. At the same time the frame also provides a means for mounting the panel securely onto a surface, such as a roof or a ground-based rack. In addition, solar panels also use metal frames consisting of racking components, brackets, reflector shapes, and troughs to better support the panel structure.

What is junction box?

As an electrical enclosure used to house and protect electrical connections, junction box is specially designed to provide a safe and secure environment for electrical connections so as to prevent accidental contact with live wires and to simplify future maintenance or repairs. Usually a PV junction box is attached to the back of the solar panel and functions as its output interface. External connections for most photovoltaic modules use MC4 connectors to facilitate easy weatherproof connections to the rest of the system. A USB power interface can also be used.

What is concentrator?

Some special solar PV modules include concentrators in which light is focused by lenses or mirrors onto smaller cells. This enables the use of cells with a high cost per unit area (such as gallium arsenide) in a cost-effective way.[citation needed] Concentrating the sunlight can also raise the efficiency to around 45%.

3.The Development History of Solar Panels

In 1839, the ability of some materials to create an electrical charge from light exposure was first observed by the French physicist Edmond Becquerel, though these initial solar panels were too inefficient for even simple electric devices.

In the 1950s, Bell Labs created the first commercially viable silicon solar cell made of silicon. However, the application of solar panel was limited to a few specialized areas such as space satellites, lighthouses, and remote locations due to the high cost.

In 1970s, the hit of oil crisis and environmental concerns promoted the development of more cheaper and efficient solar panels. After that, governments and private companies around the world attached great importance to the research and development of solar panels.

In the early 2000s, the introduction of feed-in tariffs (FiTs) by some countries greatly contributed to the rapid growth of the solar industry.Nowadays, solar panels have become much more efficient and affordable than ever before, which are being used not only in homes and commercial buildings but also in infrastructure projects.

4.The Types of Solar Panels

There are three types of solar panels primarily available today: monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as multi-crystalline), and thin-film.

l Monocrystalline solar panels are made up of high-purity silicon, which is derived from a single crystal. Of all panel types, monocrystalline panels typically have the highest efficiency (over 20%) and power capacity. This is becuse monocrystalline solar panels provide over 300 watts (W) of power capacity, some even exceeding 400 W. what’s more, Monocrystalline solar panels also tend to outperform polycrystalline models regarding temperature coefficient – a measure of a panel’s performance in warm temperatures. Despite these advantages, monocrystalline solar panels are likely to be the most expensive option, so they are more popular with those who have enough budget and prefer to maximize your electric bill savings such as commercial, public and governmental department.

l PolyCrystalline or multiCrystalline solar panels are solar panels that consist of several crystals of silicon in a single PV cell. These solar panels are made of multiple photovoltaic cells. Each cell contains silicon crystals which makes it function as a semiconductor device. When the photons from the sunlight fall on the PN junction (junction between N-type and P-type materials), it imparts energy to the electrons so that they can flow as electric current. Compared to monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels are more eco-friendly as they do not require individual shaping and placement of each crystal and most of the silicon is utilized during production and more cost effective. 

When it comes to its disadvantages, its lower efficiency, less space-efficient and poor performance in high temperatures may hamper its further development. Based on these, multiCrystalline solar panels are available in large solar farms to harness the power of the sun and supply electricity to nearby areas, standalone or self-powered devices such as traffic lights in remote areas, off-grid households,etc.

l Thin-film solar panels are made by depositing one or more thin layers (thin films or TFs) of photovoltaic material onto a substrate, such as glass, plastic or metal. When making comparisons to monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon panels, they require less semiconductor material in the manufacturing process while they operate fairly similar under the photovoltaic effect and are cheaper. Nevertheless, they are much less efficient and have lower power capacity.In addition, thin-film solar panels degrade faster than crystalline silicon solar panels. 

Thus they are usually applied at the utility scale since thin-film solar panels degrade at a much slower pace. And one common application for thin-film solar panels is the installation of flexible PV modules on vehicle rooftops (commonly RVs or buses) and the decks of boats and other vessels. And because of its space advantage, it has become more and more popular among those who want to achieve building-Integrated photovoltaics.

5. The Development Trends of Solar Panels

The solar panels market is driven by increasing investments in the renewable energy sector, the declining cost of solar PV panels, and emerging favorable government regulations.Both monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon cells have witnessed high demand, especially in residential applications. Cadmium telluride and amorphous silicon cells are expected to create growth opportunities owing to low material cost. And PV module prices have fallen faster than expected in early 2023, as polysilicon supply becomes more abundant. 

While in the meantime According to data,in the changed post COVID-19 business landscape, the global market for Solar Panels estimated at US$50.1 Billion in the year 2022, is projected to reach a revised size of US$98.5 Billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 8.8% over the analysis period 2022-2030. Poly-Crystalline Solar Panel, one of the segments analyzed in the report, is projected to record a 8.2% CAGR and reach US$48.2 Billion by the end of the analysis period. Taking into account the ongoing post pandemic recovery, growth in the Thin-Film Solar Panel segment is readjusted to a revised 8.9% CAGR for the next 8-year period.

6. The Investment Analysis of Solar Panels

Given that solar is currently the second most deployed clean energy technology across the globe by installed capacity, solar PV is expected to be one of the cheapest sources of energy available by 2050, especially in regions that have excellent solar radiation,and the trend is drove by several factors.

l Product Type Analysis

The polycrystalline solar panel is leading the market with more than 48% of value market share and it is anticipated to capture higher market share in forecast period,especially at residential segment. But the advances in thin-film solar PV modules will also drive the solar panels market growth during the next few years. Also, the rise in the deployment of microgrids and the development of zero-energy buildings will lead to sizable demand in the market.

l End-User Analysis

By end user type, market is segmented into residential, commercial, industrial and others segments. The commercial segment is leading the market with more than 33% of value market share since they requires a significant amount of energy to ensure their long-term sustainability and functionality.It ca also help to reduce reliance on grid electricity while lowering operating costs and minimizing carbon footprint. But since the majority of the governments globally have enacted the net metering legislation along with significant subsidies on solar system installation in residential setups. These cells are readily used in the residential segment due to their cheaper costs as compared to mono-crystalline solar cells.

l Regional Analysis

According to data, the Asia-pacific region is dominating in the value market share. Since Asia-Pacific is the largest region globally in terms number of people living. The region is also home to China, which has a significant manufacturing capacity for polycrystalline solar cells which fulfills the demand of the region. And India also plans to set up solar manufacturing units under the government's production.

7. Things to Consider for High-quality Solar Panels

When buying solar panels, not only the price and quality must be considered, other factors should also be kept in mind.

Temperature: Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels have peak efficiency between 59°F and 95°F. Regions with high temperatures during the summer that may cause a solar panel to reach an internal temperature of more than 100°F may see a decrease in efficiency levels. When selecting a inverter, it is necessary to consider the condition.

Light-Induced Degradation (LID): LID refers to a metric of performance loss that occurs with crystalline panels during the first few hours of sunlight exposure. Generally LID tends to range from 1% to 3% in efficiency loss. Therefore, it should under consideration when choosing solar panels.

Fire rating: International Building Codes require solar panels to match their roof’s fire rating to ensure that the panels do not accelerate the spread of flames. Generally there are three types of Class. Class A provides the most protection in a fire, as flames cannot spread more than six feet. Class B ensures flame spread does not exceed eight feet, and Class C ensures flames do not spread beyond 13 feet.

Weather Condition: For example, Crystalline panels are better for areas that might experience heavy hail as they can withstand hail hitting at speeds of up to 50 mph. While given their thin design, hin-film solar panels are not ideal for hail. A solar system that uses fasteners, through-bolting modules, or a three-frame rail system is better suited for homes that might experience a hurricane or tropical storm.

Efficiency: The efficiency of a solar panel refers to the amount of sunlight it can convert into electricity. A high-efficiency solar panel will produce more electricity from the same amount of sunlight than a lower-efficiency panel.

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