Advantages and Disadvantages of Thin Film Solar Panels

Thin film solar panels are the new kids on the block. Learn about the pro’s and con’s of using thin film solar panels for your home.

Thin film solar panels are one method of generating electric power from the sun that’s only come onto the market in recent years.  They’re also called amorphous silicon photovoltaic cells, and they aren’t rigid, unlike traditional panels.  They use an amorphous type of silicon instead of one or more crystals.  These thin panels could end up replacing rigid monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cell.  Made of a silicon material placed between flexible laminate, steel or glass, this new type of panel has some real possibilities.  Let’s take a look at the good and bad things about this new type of solar panel.

The most common and popular type of thin film solar panel is the flexible laminate type.  That’s because they’re the most versatile.  Their thin film allows them to be applied to almost all surfaces and to take up a lot less space than a traditional panel.  They’ve even been used as a type of roofing material.  Unlike rigid panel types, they don’t stand out, blending in better with the roof itself.  They can actually be used instead of steel or shingles for roofing, creating an entire roof that generates power from sunlight.

However, there’s a reason why thin film solar panels haven’t replaced older types yet.  They’re just not as efficient.  With about a six percent conversion rate for energy drawn from the sun, they can only draw about half the wattage from sunlight that mono and polycrystalline panels do, making them take up twice as much installation space for the same amount of power.  They do cost less, however. 

Their thinner structure needs less material, allowing much cheaper panels to be produced.  In terms of price per watt of power output, thin film panels are as high as other technologies, allowing budget conscious homeowners to pay less for their power generation.  At about seven to ten dollars per watt, the costs are lower than the other solar panels on the market.  The best known brand is probably UniSolar.

The less fragile nature of these panels also means they are unlikely to become damaged during shipping.  Monocrystalline panels, by comparison, are especially fragile.  For those who aren’t worried about space but are worried about what they’re paying for their solar power system, these are a great choice.  You should be aware that their longevity may be questionable, though.  There’s a possibility that they’ll hold up just as long as their competitors, but this technology is new and still hasn’t been well tested.  A decrease in efficiency may occur over time.

One benefit of thin film solar panels that other types can’t offer is that they don’t suffer a decrease in output when temperatures go up.  Some may even have a slight increase in their outputs.  That’s impressive, since areas where sunlight is readily available are also usually hot.  Because of this, thin film solar panels often have an actual output that’s very close to the one they’re rated for.  This can make planning a solar power system much easier using this kind of panel.


4 Comments on Advantages and Disadvantages of Thin Film Solar Panels

  1. Sean Finlay on Sun, 27th Dec 2009 7:17 pm
  2. Re thin film solar panels. Can these be laminated on to existing windows? do they obliterate or just imped light entering a building? How do you laminate them e.g on to slates?

    Where in the UK can I see them and buy them? I am not very techy, but have very high energy bills (despite adopting energy saving measures) my problem is my electric underfloor heating, very efficient but expensive to operate.

  3. Husni Mansour on Sun, 17th Jan 2010 7:04 pm
  4. There are new models from thin film going out mid of 2010 coded as see through which may be used in new buildings construction and other uses to replace windows glass.

  5. viqar idris siddiqi on Mon, 12th Apr 2010 4:18 am
  6. I am in Karachi Pakistan.I want to know how to make solar cell,what is TiO2.
    where from can buy solar cell to make soler pannel.Do not have any foreign
    currency credit card.
    pls advice
    Best Regards

  7. Dimitris Tsokaktsidis on Sun, 28th Nov 2010 1:03 pm
  8. I would be grateful if you shared your thoughts about the following case. I own a plot in Thessaloniki area in Greece of 5500 square meters. I intend to manufacture a park of 150 kw . The plot is flat , temperatures are usually high. Do you think I should go for thin film technology or not?

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