Solar technology is changing the world. At Energy Concepts, we believe that solar energy is the best way to create a sustainable future for the next generation. It’s a common saying that no matter what happens, the sun will come up in the morning. That reliability is something that is unmatched in the energy production space, and it’s why we believe so strongly in the technology. Still, people have understood the power of the sun for millennia and yet solar panel technology is still in its infancy. We wanted to explain some of the innovations behind modern solar panels and how they function. Here is an overview of how solar panels are made and manufactured.
Types of Solar Panels
The technology of solar panels is still changing and evolving to this day. Now there are various types of solar panels out there that use completely different processes to extract energy from the sun’s rays.
Polycrystalline is one of the more widely-used panel types out there. When most people imagine solar panels, these are the types that they think of. They are bright blue, and the cells are divided into clean squares. They are the cheapest to make, which is partially why they are so common. However, they are not the most efficient solar panel out there.
Thin-film solar panels aren’t as common but are another type of solar panel. They are made to be thin and flexible and are created out of a variety of different materials as well. They use non-crystalline forms of silicon to allow them to be bendable. Other forms of thin-film solar panels are made using entirely different elements like Cadmium. These are interesting solar panels to monitor, but for now, they lag behind crystalline solar panels in efficiency by a wide margin.
Monocrystalline solar panels are still well-known and common, but they cost a bit more to manufacture. However, they are also more efficient! These are darker blue in color and aren’t divided into clear squares. Instead, each cell has rounded corners. They have to be shaped like this because monocrystalline panels are made from one source of silicon. That is where the “mono” in monocrystalline comes from.
How Are Solar Panels Made?
Solar panels have been theorized for centuries. It may surprise you to learn that the first photovoltaic effect, the same process that creates electricity from light, was discovered in 1839. That’s a long time ago! Over the years, inventors and innovators learned to harness this effect to eventually make solar panels that could power entire homes. Along that timeline, a multitude of different manufacturing processes was used.
Initially, selenium was used as the first solar cell. Nowadays, we use silicon. Modern solar panels start as unrefined silicon, which must be processed and crystallized. The crystal structure allows for the energy production to be stable and consistent, as well as long-lasting. As we mentioned earlier, this is where the polycrystalline and monocrystalline types of solar panels begin to differ. Monocrystalline structures come from one source of silicon and are a bit harder to manufacture. On the other hand, polycrystalline cells can be made from multiple sources.
From here, the silicon is sliced into extremely thin layers that will form the basis of the panels. There are also special chemicals added to make the silicon more efficient conductors. From there, the silicon cells are assembled in rows and columns to fit on a full solar panel. The reason that solar panels are arranged in this way is that each cell adds a bit of electricity that adds up to be the correct voltage and amperage for use by your existing electricity infrastructure. All the electricity we use has to be strong enough, so it takes multiple rows and columns to set up the perfect amount of power generated. They’re all connected by wires so that electricity can flow out of the system. The cells end up mounted on glass and whatever materials the panel base is made out of, and they are ready for installation.
Why Are Solar Panels Blue?
You may have wondered why almost every type of solar panel out there is blue in color. This is a deliberate choice during the manufacturing process. Silicon isn’t naturally dark in color. Even after being processed, it usually comes out with a metallic grey sheen. Certain chemicals are used during production to alter the color, but why?
The answer is because of the science of light rays. Darker materials absorb light and reflect a more narrow spectrum of wavelengths. Bright materials reflect a majority of the light that hits them. This is why turning the silicon blue, or any dark color, increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the solar panels’ energy generation.
Why Do Solar Panels Keep Getting More Efficient Over Time?
We’ve explained a lot about the manufacturing process for solar panels. We’ve even spoken a bit about the history of solar technology. However, we haven’t spoken much about the future. Now that solar panels have used silicon photovoltaic cells for decades, how can the technology grow more efficient year over year?
One of the main reasons is the silicon itself. As newer manufacturing processes are created, we can be more efficient with silicon. Innovations have limited waste when cutting the silicon into sheets, for example. These same innovations have allowed the silicon wafers to be made even thinner than previously thought possible.
Beyond the raw materials, the way the cells are assembled has also led to greater efficiency. Over time, the solar industry has realized better ways to efficiently gather up the current of all the cells.
Other advancements could change the look of the solar panel in the future. Today’s solar panels don’t focus on redirecting sunlight. Instead, they sit in the sun and try to absorb as much as they can. New innovations may gather what little sunlight that is reflected back by a solar panel and give the cells a second chance at absorbing that energy.
Lastly, we have no clue if there are new ways to generate energy from sunlight that are completely outside of the traditional solar panel. Who knows what other materials or forms could be utilized in the coming decades. The exciting part is that so many of the world’s great minds are dedicated to solving these problems and continuing the solar energy revolution.
Get A Solar Panel Installation on Your Property
With so many high-tech industries, the innovations are exciting, but not accessible. This is not the case with solar technology! With the incentives out there and the desire in the solar industry to make the technology one that can be successful all across the world, you can easily get a system installed in your home. Our team at Energy Concepts is more than happy to help you achieve that!
If you’re interested in a solar panel or battery installation to reduce your carbon footprint and give your home free energy, we’d love to help! We’ll work with you to ensure you can take advantage of all incentives and tax credits out there. Contact our team at (559) 377-7080 or fill out an online form and we can come out to assist you as soon as possible!