The views expressed by the author, Michael Leong, are of the author’s own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which he have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

What are solar panels?

Learn about solar panels as part of our solar PV system DISCOVER SERIES

  • Solar panels are a major part of a solar PV system

  • Sunlight gets converted to electricity through a solar panel

  • Good solar panel brands to consider

Introduction to solar panels

First, I would like to take this opportunity to clear any confusion over the different names you may have come across while researching the internet or read about in a solar brochure.

Names or terms such as:

  • solar cell

  • solar panel

  • photovoltaic cell

  • solar PV

  • photovoltaic

  • PV module

  • solar module

Each of these I just named are actually related, let me explain… solar cells are small in size, about the size of your hand. Now, combine a few pieces of solar cells with other solar cells together and you get a solar module.  Now, combine a few pieces of solar modules with other solar modules together and you’ll get a solar panel. Solar panel is the most common term used in the industry, so we’ll stick to that for now.

what are solar panels | solar panel terminology

What are solar panels / solar arrays / solar modules / solar cells

As for what PV is, it stands for PhotoVoltaic – that is the name of the process when converting sunlight into electricity. Like the process of food travelling from your mouth to the stomach is called swallowing. Each solar cell has this capability… to produce electricity from sunlight; not swallowing.

And that is why people need solar panels to generate electricity from sunlight.

What makes solar panels so important?

Without them you cannot convert sunlight to electricity, making solar panels a very important part of a solar PV system. It is best to place these solar panels where there is lots of sun, like on the roof. Not to worry, they won’t be flying away – a reputable solar installer will have tied down your solar panels to the roof with PV mounting structures. These PV mounting structures hold the solar panels down on various types of roofs(tiles, klip-lok, metal clad, etc), land and even water surfaces.

what are solar panels | ground mounted solar panels

Ground mounted solar panels – with specialized ground mounted PV structures, we can mount solar panels to the ground instead of the roof

Solar panel pricing

Their pricing constitutes to about 30-40% of the complete total bill of a solar PV system. Easily the component with the highest cost in a solar PV system. Solar panel pricing however has dropped over the years, solar panel prices today are 85% cheaper than compared to the prices in 2010.

Types of solar panels

There are three types of solar panels which are widely known; polycrystalline, monocrystalline and thin film. While all three have a different manufacturing process leading to a different aesthetic; solar cells are usually made from silicon, hence giving it a blueish colour.

what are solar panels | types of solar panels

Types of solar panels – monocrystalline polycrystalline thin film. Each giving off a different look on the surface

Solar panel brands

Below is a list of well known brands which manufacture solar panels. Picking one of these would generally be a safe bet as they all are market leaders with good service, warranties and products.

  • JinkoSolar

  • JA Solar

  • Trina Solar

  • Longi Solar

  • Canadian Solar

  • Hanwha Q Cells

  • Risen Energy

  • First Solar

  • GCL

Conclusion

With that, we conclude this part of the DISCOVER SERIES on solar panels. I hope that the information here gave you a basic understanding about solar panels. In the future we’ll dive deeper into stuff like solar panel ratings, types of technology and a more in-depth look at which solar panels to choose to help purchasing decisions. Until next time and thank you for reading!

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