What are Thin Film Solar Panels?

Jul 26, '22

When you think of solar panels, you probably already have in mind the traditional, bulky silicon solar panels that most people know and use. While this is the most popular technology, thin-film solar technology is another excellent option with great promise. They are lighter and more convenient, and they can still work well even in weak light conditions, which is a make-up for the defect of rigid solar panels.
 
Thin-film solar technology has actually been around for years and has proven itself by providing many general and unique applications that crystalline silicon solar cells cannot. You might be thinking: What? Film? This sounds not reliable as the glass one. In the end, where it can perform better. Don't worry, I will introduce it in the text in detail.

thin film solar panel
 

Types of thin-film solar panels

All thin-film panels contain photovoltaic materials, conductive sheets, and protective layers. Let's take a closer look at four of the most common types of thin-film solar cells.

Solar photovoltaic panels are divided into crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon, and thin film panels are one of the amorphous silicon. Cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), and amorphous silicon (a-Si)Gallium arsenide (GaAs) are the main thin-film technologies typically used in outdoor applications. I will explain these different materials one by one.
 
1. Cadmium telluride (CdTe)

CdTe is the second most common photovoltaic material after silicon, and CdTe cells can be manufactured using low-cost manufacturing processes. While this makes them a cost-effective alternative, they are still not as efficient as silicon.
 
2. Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)

CIGS is a versatile material manufactured by various processes and implemented in different forms. In addition, CIGS is more appealing as a highly efficient alternative to large commercial solar modules. Some companies are using this for commercial use, which has proved to work well. BougeRV is also released CIGS solar panels for people who want to use the CIGS thin-film solar panel to install easier and use happier.
 
3. Amorphous silicon (a-Si)

Amorphous silicon (A-SI) is a kind of allotropic amorphous silicon, which is the perfect thin-film technology so far. Thin film silicon substitutes traditional wafer (or block) crystalline silicon. A-si is attractive as a solar cell material because it is an abundant, non-toxic material. It requires lower processing temperatures and is capable of scalable production on flexible, low-cost substrates that require little silicon.
 
4. Gallium arsenide (GaAs)

Gallium arsenide (GaAs), an III-V direct bandgap semiconductor, is a very common material used in monocrystalline thin-film solar cells.GaAs solar cells have been among the highest performing thin-film solar cells due to their superior thermal performance and high efficiency. As of 2019, single-crystal GaAs cells have the highest solar cell efficiency of all single-junction solar cells, with an efficiency of 29.1%.

 

Features of thin-film solar panels

Flexible and lightweight thin-film solar panels are available.

These panels are simpler to install and require less effort than conventional silicon panels.

They emit far fewer emissions during manufacture than conventional solar panels because they have a shallow silicon content.

The ideal uses for these solar panels are on uncommon and uneven surfaces, for example, RVs and yachts, for a regular rigid solar panel is not suitable to install on their surface, that’s why a thin-film solar panel is welcomed.

In conclusion, thin-film solar panels are lightweight and easy to install, and it’s the perfect choice for uneven surfaces, for example, RVs and boats.

Where to use thin-film solar panels

Thin-film solar panels can be put in institutional and commercial buildings with wide roofs and open areas since they need a greater mounting area. Thus, some roofs that can’t bear the heavy rigid solar panel can think about installing the thin-film solar panel.

They are also applicable in wooded regions. The thin-film solar panels are durable and still work if there is any panel penetration or damage, so when you drive in your RV and move toward the forest, no worries exist.

To power fan blades, Wi-Fi modems, and other tiny devices, these panels can be mounted on the top of an RV or yacht, especially when you decide to begin an off-grid life.

Given that thin solar panels are typically used on RVs and yachts, the following types are commonly seen.

RV

teardrop
Pop Up trailer
Hiker Trailer
herocamper

Boat:

Cabin Cruisers
Center Consoles
High-Performance Boats
Motor Yachts/Power Cruisers
Multi-Hull Powerboats (Catamarans)
Sailboats
Sportfishing Yachts
Trawlers
Walkarounds

Benefits of Thin-film solar panels

The use of crystalline silicon technology has been beneficial for some time. Although thin film technology is still relatively new, it has the potential to reduce costs while maintaining efficiency and dependability. How should I decide that case?
 
Thin-film solar cells are more flexible. The thin-film solar panel can be more flexible to install on uneven surfaces, such as an RV or yacht surface. That’s what a crystalline silicon solar panel can’t do.
 
The thin-film solar panel is easier to handle and install. It’s more flexible, as mentioned, and it’s easy to install on the surface. Normally, a thin film is no need to drill the holes to install but to remove the glue from the back and install it wherever you need it.

Compared to crystalline silicon, it is less susceptible to damage from external impacts. For example, if a small part of a crystalline silicon solar panel is damaged, the efficiency of the entire solar panel will be greatly reduced. But, the thin film is less likely to be affected by an external. It can still work well in weak light conditions.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a lightweight, flexible solar panel, thin-film solar panels can be your first choice. Thin-film solar panels offer a fascinating insight into the future's flexible and portable solar technology. These cells have potential, and we extremely recommend the thin-film solar panel to RV and boat owners, for they are flexible enough and lightweight.

If you are unsure which panels are suitable for your solar project, we recommend contacting your local installer. After speaking with a solar consultant / or choosing to consult with BougeRV, you will clearly understand which solar panels to purchase and how much they will cost.

FAQ

How are thin-film solar panels made?

Every single panel is made of three main parts:

  1. Photovoltaic material
  2. Conductive sheet
  3. Protective layer

      How do thin film solar panels work?

      The components of a thin-film solar panel are thin-film solar cells assembled together. Several layers of photon-absorbing materials are used to construct each thin-film solar cell. These solar panels utilize the photovoltaic effect to transform solar energy into electrical energy. 

      How long do thin film solar panels last?

      Thin-Film cells, one of the three kinds of solar panels, have the lowest lifespan of 10 to 20 years. Thin-Film panels provide the quickest payback time while having a limited lifespan. In other words, the system will save you a lot of money on electricity and will pay for itself within 8 years.

      Why is thin-film photovoltaics preferred than silicon solar cells?

      Thin-film amorphous silicon solar cells are made using a reasonably straightforward, scalable manufacturing technique that uses minimal quantities of silicon. Solar cells built of thin-film amorphous silicon are consequently often less expensive than those made of crystalline silicon.

      Where can I buy thin-film solar panels?

      BougeRV is a company dedicated to solar energy production. You can obtain thin film solar panels from sources including Amazon and BougeRV official website.