Thin Film Solar panels

Introduction

Solar panels come in three different types based on the variation in the purity of silica used:

  • Monocrystalline Panels
  • Polycrystalline Panels
  • Thin Film Panels

The more perfectly aligned the silicon molecules are, the better the efficiency of the solar cell to convert solar energy into electricity. Thin cells solar panels have reached output efficiencies in the range of 7–13%.

Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC)

Thin film solar cells are produced by using a technique of putting one or several thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate, these are also called thin-film photovoltaic cells (TFPV).

There are many types of photovoltaic materials which can be used for the layering onto the substrate and based on the material the thin film solar cells are categorized into four types which are as below –

  1. Amorphous silicon (a-Si)
  2. Organic photovoltaic cells (OPC)
  3. Cadmium telluride (CdTe)
  4. Copper indium gallium selenide (CIS/CIGS)

Benefits of Thin film Panels

With rapid strides in this area, the market for thin-film PV has gone over the last few years. Some advantages of these are –

  • High tolerance and performance under extreme temperatures

The temperature tolerance of these panels is much higher, so high temperatures and shading have a lesser less impact on the solar panel performance. These panels don’t show a decrease in output when temperatures go up unlike other panel types. Results have shown that some of these panels even have a slight increase in their outputs at higher temperature levels which makes their actual output very close to the ones they are rated for.

·         Better Flexibility

Crystalline silicon solar panels are rigid and fragile, but thin film materials can be deposited on flexible substrate materials. These can conform a little to a curved roof surface and this lends them more dexterity.

·         Greater Versatility

 

Thin film cells can be applied to almost all types of surfaces and this lends them a greater degree of versatility. They can be used on metal, plastic and even paper. A big advantage is they can actually be used instead of steel or shingles for roofing, thereby creating an entire roof that generates power from the sun’s power.

  • Good Performance in Niche Markets

Thin films have found their niche in low power (<50W) and consumer electronics applications.

  • These solar panels have a significant cost advantage over other panels as they are easier to manufacture in bulk.
  • These panels have a homogenous appearance which makes them aesthetically more appealing.

Some disadvantages of these Solar panels

 

  • These solar panels need more space and so do not find as much use in residential situations inspite of being cost effective.
  • Owing to the low space-efficiency of these panels, the equipment cost increases.
  • Thin-film solar panels have a faster degradation rate than mono- and polycrystalline solar panels and hence come with a shorter warranty.
  • While these panels are good, but they use two products which contain Cadmium which has been classified as a toxic substance.

 

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