Types of Solar Panels in Australia

Explore different types of solar panels in Australia with Econnex. Compare monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels for your home or business.

Types of Solar Panel

Published on 02/04/2024

By William Walton

Solar Comparison

Solar technology is leading the renewables charge as we near the quarter-way point of the 21st century. As this technology continues to develop and companies within the space continue to innovate, the types of solar panels available for Australian businesses and consumers have also evolved. These days, there are three different types of solar panels for consumers to choose from, each with unique properties and benefits.  

With that in mind, it’s high time that we explore some of the available solar panel technology currently released to the Australian market to give you a better understanding of what will work best for your business or residence. When you’re ready to make the switch, use Econnex’s solar comparison platform to quickly identify a range of solar solutions available for your address from our panel of retailers. Once you have a preferred option, you can submit your online application from one platform in minutes.  

Surveying the Australian Solar Landscape 

As we move through 2023, the adoption of solar technology continues to pick up pace among the Australian population. In fact, research suggests that the percentage of Australian households with solar systems more than doubled from 14% to 32% from 2018 to 2022. This surge has been driven by a combination of factors, including: 

  • Environmental concerns - Solar technology provides a way for the everyday consumer to contribute to reducing Australia’s carbon footprint. Many citizens feel an obligation to do their part to invest in and promote renewable energy solutions in whatever way they can, and solar represents an opportunity to do that.  
  • Budgetary concerns - Energy bills are also top of mind for many Australians, and solar offers a chance to reduce the pain. More energy generated through solar equals less energy taken from the grid, reducing monthly power bills and potentially increasing your property’s ability to withstand a blackout (especially if you install a battery). There are also various state-based incentives, such as the Victorian Solar Homes Program, that are designed to help drive solar uptake.  
  • Australia’s unique climate - The sun-drenched Australian landscape seems tailor-made for solar solutions. This is especially true in regions such as Western Australia and Queensland, with conditions slightly less ideal in areas such as Tasmania or parts of Victoria. As such, many Australians can’t ignore the commonsense argument to take advantage of this technology that combines well with our natural conditions. This is doubly true considering the two points above.  

Three Different Types of Solar Panels in Australia 

Within Australia, three predominant types of solar panels are available to everyday consumers and businesses: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. As we explore, remember that the technology continues to develop rapidly. There may be other emerging types of solar panel technology that we don’t discuss here; however, they have yet to capture a significant share of the market. 

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

  • These are made from one single, continuous crystalline structure that makes for very efficient light absorption.  
  • They are identifiable via a more uniform dark look and more rounded edges compared to the other options.  
  • Monocrystalline panels tend to be more expensive, as manufacturing them from one singular piece of crystal is complicated and results in a high amount of wasted silicone. However, they are considered to have a higher efficiency and thereby deliver a better performance than the alternatives.  

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

  • By contrast, polycrystalline panels are manufactured by melting multiple silicon crystals together. This can create value for the consumer, as the cost of production is lower, resulting in typically cheaper panels.  
  • They have a more blue, speckled appearance than the others and are considered especially suitable for households or businesses with more roof space.  
  • They generally can’t deliver the efficiency of monocrystalline panels but remain a versatile and cost-effective option.  

Thin-Film Solar Panels

  • Comparatively lightweight, resilient, and flexible - thin-film solar panels are made from various materials, differing between manufacturers.  
  • The most common type uses a cadmium-tellurium compound for the thin film, then placed between two conductive layers. Other solar producers may alternately use amorphous silicon or a copper compound.  

Types of Solar Panels: Detailed Breakdown

Dive into the intricate realm of renewable energy with our guide on the Types of Solar Panels. Unveiling the diverse landscape of solar technology, this comprehensive overview equips you with insights into the distinct characteristics and applications of various solar panel types. From monocrystalline to thin-film, join us on a journey through the intricacies of solar energy, empowering you to make informed decisions in the pursuit of a sustainable and eco-friendly future.

What do the different types of solar panels look like? 

  • Monocrystalline solar panels tend to appear black due to the singular crystalline structure. However, the frames and back sheets that help mount them can come in various colours, including white or black. 
  • Polycrystalline panels take on a navy blue/speckled appearance by virtue of the melting process that combines different crystals. Similarly to monocrystalline options, some colour choices can still be made regarding the frame and back sheet that help support the panels.  
  • Thin-film panels can be either black or blue, depending on the materials used. They can be more easily identified by the comparative slimness of the panel (although the frame used can make it similar in thickness to the crystalline options).  

What is the lifespan of the different types of solar panels? 

All three predominant types of solar panels in Australia have a lifespan of roughly 25 years, which lines up with the warranties on offer from most solar panel manufacturers. That expectation may need to be adjusted for those in particularly harsh or hot areas, as solar panels (contrary to popular belief) do not function optimally in high temperatures. They convert light, not heat.  

Remember that the retailer or manufacturer offering the warranty on your solar panels has to remain solvent to honour that commitment. Ordering your solar system from established, CEC-accredited providers, such as the ones found in our Econnex Comparison panel, can go some way towards alleviating these risks.  

How energy efficient are the different types of solar panels? 

The energy efficiency of solar panels is expressed as a percentage of the maximum available energy provided by the sun’s photons. To explain: if a panel’s energy efficiency is described as 20%, it will generate 20% of the possible electricity from full exposure to sunlight.  

The efficiency of different types of solar panels varies from one manufacturer to another. However, speaking generally: 

  • High-quality monocrystalline panels operate at 15-25% efficiency. 
  • Polycrystalline solar panels are slightly less efficient on average at 13-20%. 
  • Thin-film panels only generate approximately 6-12% of the available energy.    

Will the energy efficiency of my solar panels go down over time? 

Yes, unfortunately. Solar panels are not immune to degradation over time in Australia, especially considering their exposure to the elements in some of the harshest climates. As a rule of thumb, you can expect the efficiency of your solar panels, no matter which type you have, to decrease by 1% every two years. That’s consistent with most warranties, which predict the total lifespan of your solar system to last approximately 25 years.  

Are there any differences in the installation process for different types of solar panels? 

  • Monocrystalline. Monocrystalline panels require a precise installation process to maximise sun exposure. Due to their high output, fewer panels may be needed, which can influence the design and layout of the installation. 
  • Polycrystalline. While similar in installation to monocrystalline, these panels might need to cover more roof area to generate a similar output due to their slightly lower efficiency. Ensuring your roof can accommodate the necessary number of panels is vital. 
  • Thin-Film. Thin-film panels offer more flexibility in installation and are therefore suitable for various surfaces, including some more non-traditional ones. However, they also generally require more space than the crystalline options due to their lower efficiency. 

What are the maintenance requirements for different types of solar panels? 

  • Monocrystalline panels require regular cleaning and occasional checks for efficiency. On average, their high durability generally means less frequent repairs. 
  • Polycrystalline panels need similar levels of maintenance to monocrystalline but may require more frequent checks if a larger number of panels are installed. 
  • While thin-film solar panels are less prone to efficiency losses due to shading or dirt, the larger area of the array compared to other options might necessitate more extensive cleaning routines. 

Which type of solar panel is best for Australian conditions? 

Certain regions in Australia have some of the highest levels of sun exposure found globally. Considering that, some consumers may prefer to use monocrystalline panels, where suitable, in areas such as Western Australia or Queensland due to their energy efficiency. Of course, any solar panel array you choose must align with your budget, the size of your roof, any instances of heavy shading, and your aesthetic preferences. If you have a lot of roof space, you might save on upfront costs by installing a less expensive option, such as polycrystalline panels. It’s not a matter of one-size-fits-all.  

Explore Top 10 Solar Panels in Australia

How harmful can heavy shading be to my solar panels?  

Heavy shading can accelerate the deterioration of your solar panel array over time, as the unshaded cells must work harder to cover the loss of energy production from cells impacted by shade. This extra workload can increase the excess heating of overworked cells, causing potential damage. Further, your net energy production from your array/s will be far from optimal due to the shading.  

Can seasonality affect the energy production of my solar panels? 

Absolutely, the time of year can have more impact on the overall production of your solar system than you might expect. Consumers in Australia can sometimes experience up to triple the energy production from their solar system in January compared to the winter months. Of course, this disparity will vary depending on your location and how dramatically the seasons change in that area. For example, areas of northern Queensland are unlikely to experience the same degree of seasonal change as Tasmania.  

Compare and Apply for Your Solar Provider using Econnex Comparison 

Econnex Comparison simplifies finding a reputable solar system, providing an end-to-end solution that allows you to submit your application online with minimal fuss. There are no sponsored products, advertisements, or third-party links. Just unbiased information that allows you to identify the best solution for your needs from our panel of providers.  

Once you visit our solar comparison platform, follow these simple steps to secure your preferred solar solution: 

  1. Enter the address of your residence or business. 
  2. Compare the available packages from providers servicing your area. 
  3. Identify the best fit for your property. 
  4. Fill in your online application on Econnex. 
  5. Pay a small deposit.  
  6. Wait for a call from your selected installer within 48 hours to confirm your order and arrange an installation date.  

That’s it! That’s all you need to do to commence your solar journey and leverage the power of green, renewable energy solutions. Once your panels are installed, you can reduce your reliance on grid power, decrease your carbon footprint, and take the sting out of energy bills. 

Start your solar comparison journey today.  

Solar Comparison
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