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Thin Film Solar Panels
Thin film solar panels are frequently overlooked, especially when it comes to their crystalline counterparts. The tend to have a lower level of efficiency and take up a lot more space, but they are also the cheapest option and the one with the most potential for the future. Flexible and easy to install, they present quite a few benefits. They might just be the right option for your home or commercial building, and this page will help you to figure that out.
What are They?
Thin film solar cells are created by placing several thin layers of photovoltaic material on top of each other. The reason we say material instead of specifying is because there are actually a few different types of thin film solar cell, and the way in which they differ comes down to the material that is used for the PV layers. The types of material used are as follows:
- Amorphous silicon
- Cadmium telluride
- Copper indium gallium selenide
- Organic PV cells
The efficiency ratings for thin film solar cells tend to vary from 7% to 13%. This is all dependent on the technology and material that has been used to make them. Since 2002, the popularity of thin film solar cells, and the desire to learn more about them, has risen dramatically. This means that research and development have also been increased. As a result of this rise, we can expect future models to have efficiency rates of at least 10% to 16%. Hopefully, as time goes by and research continues to grow, we will see even higher rates.
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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Thin Film Cells
Here are some of the advantages of thin film solar cells:
- They can be manufactured to be flexible, making them widely applicable to a range of situations and building types
- Mass production is easy to achieve, making them potentially cheaper to produce than crystalline solar cells
- Shading has a similar effect on their efficiency
- They tend to be lighter than crystalline systems
Here are some of the disadvantages of thin film solar cells:
- They are not ideal for domestic use as thy take up a lot of space
- Low space efficiency means that they will cause further expenses in the form of enhancers, like cables of support structures
- They have a shorter lifespan and so shorter warranty periods
The Storage of Energy from Solar Cells
A frequent concern that people have is whether or not the visibility of the sun will affect how much energy the panels are able to generate. Even more frequently, people think that the panels will stop functioning altogether without direct sunlight. This is, in fact, a myth. During cloudy weather, the solar panels will still continue to function as normal, just at a lower level of efficiency. Of course, one thing that many are right about is the fact that the thin film solar panels will stop working at night.
It is here that storage comes in very useful. If your panels are connected to the National Grid, you can use the energy from it at night in order to power your home. It is also possible for you to integrate batteries into your solar cell system, and these can be used as a form of energy storage. They work to store the energy that has been gathered by cells, saving it for days when there are low levels of sunlight, or for use at night.
Solar battery systems don’t come cheap, as they range from £3,000 to £12,000, depending on the size and capacity. However, they are well worth the investment. Not everyone wants to spend that kind of money, and so it may be likely that an alternative solution will make its way to market in the near future thanks to all of the solar research taking place across the world.
Before You Invest in Thin Film Solar Cells
The price of thin film solar cells and the return on your investment through government schemes should not be the only factors that you take into consideration before you make a choice to invest. Here are some of the things that you should think through before you make your choice and decide to go green with solar energy.
You have to think about the location of the panels. Will the system be located in an area where the solar cells are able to capture sunlight from at least 9am until 3pm every day? Solar arrays that have been fitted onto a roof are hugely reliant on their location for the generation of electricity. However, with thin film solar panels, it is easier to fit tracking systems that move the panels with the sun as they are much more flexible. This really helps you to get the most out of your system.
You also need to take the time to ensure that your roof is suitable for solar panels as normal crystalline models can actually be quite heavy. If your roof is not able to support their weight, then thin film solar panels tend to be much lighter, which could prove beneficial to you. Solar cells come in a range of shapes and sizes, and it’s important you take the size of the solar panels into consideration. If you calculate your energy needs before, it will give you a much better idea of the panel size that you require for your home or business.
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