As with other consumers, those interested in solar PV are always keen to know which panels best, as are we.
There are many factors to consider when looking around for a suitable solar PV system. Price per watt is an important consideration, as is warranty, customer support and a whole range of other factors. Let’s just look at some of them.
PV cells are made from different materials, but most panels, perhaps as much as 93% are either monocrystalline or polycrystalline. Amorphous silicon accounts for around 4.2% of the market. A hybrid cell consists of a crystalline cell coated in an amorphous layer. Monocrystalline cells have an efficiency of around 13-17%. They tend to be the most efficient of all the different types of cell and for that reason are normally the most expensive. Mass produced polycrystalline cells have an efficiency of 11-15% while amorphous cells are around 6-8%. Hybrid cells, combining both crystalline and amorphous PV, are the most efficient cells at an efficiency of 18% or more. This is why panels such as the Sanyo HIT series are so popular, because they are the most efficient.
Other factors you need to take into account include looking at whether the panel has an international product certification (which concerns the quality of the PV), examining the manufacturer’s specifications and checking the warranty, looking at customer reviews to assess the reliability of the manufacturer and what space you have available.
A fully installed MCS approved 3kW solar PV system can cost as little as £10,200 in the UK, but it’s more often the case that most reliable systems will cost much more than that, although costs are coming down with the fall in price of silica. It is wise to bear in mind that the more expensive option will frequently be the most worthwhile. This is because solar panels are a long term investment, so another factor you have to examine is how the panel will perform over time in terms of output. It is also worth buying an energy output monitor so that you can assess your systems performance over the years. Another good idea is to consult the PV Estimation Utility, an interactive website that you can use to calculate the likely solar energy yield from PV and which is provided by the European Commission Joint Research Centre. You can access this here:
Looking at all the various factors involved is quite a task, and this is why consulting a solar PV comparison website, complete with customer reviews and news updates is such a good idea.