Monocrystalline versus Polycrystalline solar cells - India Renewable Energy Consulting – Solar, Biomass, Wind, Cleantech
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In this article, we’ll compare the practical differences between monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells.

To remind unacquainted readers, Monocrystalline photovoltaic cells are made from a single large crystal, cut from ingots. These are the most efficient convertors of sunlight, but are hence also the most expensive. These cells are somewhat better in low light conditions, but that efficiency advantage is not as significant as commonly thought.

Polycrystalline cells are basically cast blocks of silicon which contain many small crystals. This is the most common type of PV cell right now, although thin-film solar cells are fast replacing them in popularity. These are slightly less efficient compared to Monocrystalline photovoltaic cells, but once set into a frame with several cells, the actual difference in watts per square foot is not all that high.

Despite their high costs, Monocrystalline PV solar energy panels have been the first choice for many years, and are among the oldest, most efficient, and most dependable technologies. Each module is made from a single silicon crystal, and is more efficient per sq. meter of land area, though more expensive than the newer and cheaper polycrystalline modules.

Monocrystalline photovoltaic cells are generally considered the workhorses of the solar power market, and most people will choose them due to their ready availability. These panels are easily identifiable, made of uniformly stacked rounded cells.
Because they’re made of just one crystal, not multiple crystals fused together, the process of manufacturing them is one of the most complex and costly processes. That means every panel will cost more than in the case of polycrstalline PV cells.

However, increased cost buys additional efficiency, and one panel will produce more power than lower priced options.

If space is a concern (which it often is with solar panels), monocrystalline is the best type to use; more wattage per square foot can be delivered with these panels. The average 175 watt Monocrystalline photovoltaic panel is only about 63 inches in length, 31 inches in width, a little over an inch high, and weighs thirty-three pounds, with an aluminum frame. The lifespan of a monocrystalline cell is a minimum of twenty-five years and can be more than fifty, making them a worthwhile investment for long term use.

However, monocrystalline photovoltaic panels are extremely fragile. That means a rigid mounting is a must.

Moreover, like polycrystalline  solar panels, monocrystalline solar modules suffer a reduction in output once the temperature from the sunlight reaches around fifty degrees Celsius/a hundred and fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. Reductions of output of around 12-15 percent can be expected. These are lower than the reductions in output experienced by polycrystalline cells, but they still need to be factored into the calculations and design for any solar power system. For harnessing power in such harsh temperature conditions, thin-film cells are the best bet, and are gaining popularity in regions like India.

However, in temperate urban areas, for those putting together a long term solar setup who want to know they have access to the best and most reliable panels in the market, monocrystalline types are probably the best bet. Their longevity, performance, and efficiency mean that they’re a good buy over a longer period of time, and cost benefit can offset the higher price .

About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.

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