Best Solar Panels 2018 - Latest Solar Cell Technology
There are hundreds of different solar panel brands available for purchase on the Australian solar market making it difficult for the average consumer to make a choice when it comes to quality and performance. A well constructed solar power system with top quality components installed should continue delivering good output for at least 25 years. Listed below are some of the top rated solar panels for 2018 using the latest photovoltaic technology and innovative design.
What are Tier 1 Solar Panels?
If you have been shopping around for solar panels you have probably come across the term 'Tier 1', so what does this mean? The solar panel tier rating system developed by Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation and is mainly about the financial stability of a panel manufacturer, a tier 1 rating does not mean a solar panel is of the highest quality.
Listed below are the top-rated solar panels available in Australia in 2018 based on quality, performance, product innovation and value for money as well as feedback from solar panel installers listed in the Solar Directory.
Top 10 Solar Panels in 2018
Click on the links below to read detailed reviews of each solar panel brand posted on the SolarQuotes.com.au website.
LG Solar, SunPower, Winaico, REC Solar, Trina Solar, Hanwha Q-Cells, Jinko Solar, Canadian Solar, Seraphim and JA Solar.
Latest Solar Cell Technology
The solar panel market is highly competitive with each of the top manufacturers doing their best to stay on the top of the list. Regarding research and development, new technologies have emerged such as PERC, bifacial, multi busbar and half size cells, and this highly competitive market environment has spawned rapid increases in solar panel efficiency in recent years.
With all that's going on in the solar panel market and installing solar for most people being a long-term investment its well worth taking the time to do some research before you buy.
Polycrystalline or Monocrystalline Solar Panels?
For a long time, those in the solar PV industry have debated the pros and cons of Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline solar panels. Monocrystalline solar cells are made from a single crystal ingot and are more efficient than Polycrystalline however they are more expensive to produce.
Polycrystalline solar cells have become more popular in the last few years, these cells are made from a multifaceted crystalline material which is cheaper to produce but are a lower efficiency cell. Both Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline are reliable, but Monocrystalline cells are considered to be slightly superior however the difference is negligible.
Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC)
In recent times PERC solar cells have gained traction as the superior PV technology for many manufacturers of Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline solar panels. PERC is the acronym for 'Passivated Emitter Rear Cell' PERC solar cells have an additional layer on the rear designed to reflect photons that have passed through the cell back onto the cell increasing overall panel efficiency.
Qcells first introduced PERC solar cell technology in Multicrystalline solar cells. Since its introduction, PERC technology has continued to advance at a rapid pace with many solar panel manufacturers developing PERC cells. Mulitcrystalline PERC solar cells will probably be the most popular choice of solar panel over the next few years however with the rapid pace of solar industry R&D the future is hard to predict, any day something new and unforeseen could come along and make PERC cells look old fashioned.
Multiple Wire Busbars in Solar Panels
Busbars are thin wires that run through each solar cell conducting electrons through the solar module. Over the past five years, PV cells have become more efficient generating more current making it necessary for most solar panel manufacturers to upgrade from 3 busbars to 4 or 5 busbars. LG Solar has developed wire systems using up to 12 thin round busbars. The result is that the busbars can shade part of the cell reducing performance, so they need to be very carefully engineered. One advantage of this is that multiple busbars minimise resistance shortening the path electrons need to travel resulting in higher performance.
LG Solar has applied a unique system in their Neon 2 modules utilising 12 small wires in place of busbars, referred to as Cello which is an acronym for 'cell connection, electrically low loss, low stress and optical absorption enhancement'. Cello Multi-wire busbar technology reduces resistance and increases efficiency.
Trina Solar offers an optional thin round wire busbar cell named multi busbar (MBB). A significant advantage of MBB or Cello busbars is if cracking forms on a cell caused by external stress the possibility of this forming a hotspot is significantly reduced as the electrons have alternative busbars to flow through.
Split Solar Modules and Half Sized Solar Cells
Some solar panel manufacturers have begun using half-sized cells combined with a centrally mounted junction box splitting a solar panel into two with 50% of the capacity in each section. The effect is an increase in performance by lowering resistive losses within the busbars as each cell is half the size it produces half the current and as resistance is proportional to current, it reduces the total reduction. Additionally, a shorter distance to the centre of the solar panel from the top and bottom increases overall efficiency and can increase the power output of a similar capacity panel by up to 20W. Half-sized cells combined with a centrally mounted junction box can reduce the adverse effect of partial shading on total panel output.
REC Solar's twin peak two split solar panels have been on the market for some time, many solar panel manufacturers are now supplying split solar panels, these include Canadian Solar, Trina Solar, JA Solar, Q-cells and Jinko Solar.
Bifacial Solar Panels
Bifacial solar panel technology has been around for a few years, as the price of Monocrystalline panels has decreased, Bifacial solar panels are becoming more common. Bifacial solar cells can absorb light from both sides giving a boost in power output if the conditions are right in some cases up to 30% more power can be produced compared to mono-facial solar panels. Bifacial solar panels have a layer of glass on both sides protecting and supporting the solar cells; this setup is more durable than the more commonly used plastic laminate system. Some manufacturers are now offering a 30-year performance warranty on all bifacial solar panel models.
Bifacial solar panels were first used in ground-mounted solar arrays in particular situations that favoured the reflection of sunlight onto the underside of the panels like in snow for example. Even if the benefit is small in some cases why not go for it and squeeze every bit out of each panel as is possible. Some of the top-rated bifacial solar panels are produced by LG Solar, Trina Solar, Jinko Solar and Yingli Solar.
Dual Glass Solar Panels
Some solar panels are now made with glass on both sides, these are not bifacial solar panels and are referred to as glass-glass, dual glass or double glass solar panels. The idea behind this type of construction is to make each unit more durable as glass will outlast any plastic laminate. Some solar panel companies are offering 30-year performance warranty on glass-glass solar panels.
The majority of glass-glass solar panels have no frames and require specialised mounting brackets and clamping systems. One advantage of having no structure around the border of the panels is cleaning, with no frames, water can flow of the panel with ease transporting any dust with it as it flows.
Smart Solar Panels and DC Optimisers
Relatively new in solar panel technology are integrated power (DC) optimisers, these are small electronic devices that can detect and bypass shaded or poor performing cells that can reduce the output of a solar array. Tigo and SolarEdge have produced add-on power optimisers for a few years, in recent times some panel manufacturers are developing integrated optimisers within the junction box of the panel.
Jinko Solar's Eagle MX solar panels use Maxim Integrated optimiser chips. Maxim Integrated smart chips do more than add-on optimisers dividing the solar panel into three strings of cells enabling a panel to function at the optimum MPPT voltage even when shaded.
Solar Panel and Solar Cell Strength
Besides advancements in cell efficiency, new technologies are being developed to improve reliability and performance over the expected 25-year life of a solar panel. The roof of a home especially in the harsh Australian climate can be an extreme place for a delicate electronic device like a solar panel to survive. Significant variations in temperature and vibrations from strong winds can cause micro-cracks, hot spots and potential induced degradation resulting in reduced performance or complete failure.
High-Efficiency N-type Silicon Solar Cells
One of the most reliable and efficient technologies applied to solar panel design is the N-type Monocrystalline cell. In 2017 the P-type solar cell was the dominant player in the panel market with over 81% of panels using the P-type structure. As panel manufacturing costs come down and panel efficiency continues to increase its likely that N-type panels will become more popular in the future.