Solar panels are becoming more mainstream as the world realizes that harnessing the sun’s natural energy is cleaner and works out to be more affordable.
But before you can decide to go ahead and buy a solar panel, you need to know about solar cells. These are what allow solar panels to do what they do best.
But how many of these cells are in a single solar panel?
Stick with us in answering that question and diving deeper into the world of solar cells.
What Is a Solar Cell?
Understanding solar panel specs and the function of solar cells is important if you’re a newcomer to the world of solar energy.
Solar panels contain solar cells, and these cells are the key function to ensuring that solar panels can harness the sun’s natural energy and convert it into usable electricity.
The sun provides energy for plants for photosynthesis. This is similar to how solar cells absorb the sun’s energy to produce electricity.
Solar cells are made up of different layers, each with its own function. The active part of the solar cell is a layer made of a semiconductor, typically silicon. Semiconductors don’t conduct electricity well, but they can be made more conductive under certain conditions.
The other layers of a solar cell include the glass layer on top of the cell and the metal plate and grid between the semiconductors.The former is a protection measure, shielding the inner components of the cell from external threats such as falling branches or stones.
So, while the glass keeps everything on the outside from damaging the inner components, it also mirrors the sunlight and allows the solar panel to concentrate it.
The glass layer also makes up around 97% of the overall weight of the solar panel. So, when accounting for the weight of solar panels, know that the layer of the glass plays a big role in the weight.
The final metal layers are the grid and the plate. The plate acts as a back conductor of the solar cell, while the grid ensures that light can pass through it and make its way to the semiconductor.
How Solar Cells Work
The semiconductor layer itself has 3 inner layers: a top, a middle, and a bottom. The top layer contains silicon with a tiny amount of phosphorous bonded to it.
Since phosphorus has more electrons than silicon, it gives this layer excess electrons that are free to traverse the material. This makes the layer more conductive and is known as the negative layer.
The bottom layer contains silicon with a small amount of boron, an element with fewer electrons than silicon. This gives the bottom layer fewer electrons that can move around, making the layer less conductive and what we refer to as the positive layer.
The middle layer acts as the bridge between the two. Many ask what wavelength of light solar panels use and wonder where these waves are being absorbed.
To answer both of those questions, when light waves with a wavelength between 350 to 1140nm hit the surface of the solar cell, the middle layer absorbs it.
These solar cells are cased inside an aluminum frame built to withstand harsh storms and heavy snowfall. You don’t need to worry about how strong solar panels are, trust the aluminum frame to help keep everything together.
By now you should have a better understanding of how solar cells are formed and how they work.
The Burning Question
A single solar cell produces several Watts of power, and with that single cell, you could power small devices. These include calculators and maybe a phone for a short period, but it’s not sufficient to run a toaster or the lights in your house.
In terms of voltage, an individual solar cell produces around half a volt. For comparison, a double-A battery contains 1.5 volts and a wall socket provides around 120 volts.
In other words, we need a large number of solar cells in a panel and a lot of panels in an array. The number of solar cells depends on the solar panel size, but there are usually 2 choices. A 60-cell solar panel and a 72-cell one.
Differences Other than the Number of Cells
Both types of solar panels are the ones found on your neighbor’s roof or in an array on the ground.
However, with one containing a significantly smaller amount of solar cells, one is more commonly found on the roofs in your neighborhood.
The 60 solar cell panels are the most common in residential areas, whereas the 72 cell ones are found in the commercial field on farms.
Since these are 2 different solar panels containing different amounts of cells, you can imagine that the dimensions of the individual panels will differ too.
The 60 solar cell panels tend to be 10 cells tall and 6 cells wide, whereas the 72 solar cell panels are around 12 cells tall and 6 cells wide. This gives the latter a taller appearance
But we want specifics and measurements.
The 60 solar cell panels are around 3.30 ft in width, having a height of roughly 5.5 ft. Since the 72 solar cell panels have the same width, the only difference is the height, coming in at a whopping 6.5 ft.
Knowing the dimensions of these solar panels can help you understand which one works for you and sees to your solar needs.
If your roof isn’t spacious or maybe you just want to cover a small portion of it, then the 60 solar cell panels work best. They can fit into tight spaces and work miracles on narrower roofs.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your roof, and how it's sized.
This, however, brings installation costs into the equation. You may think that more cells mean more money, but realistically, a 72 solar cell panel could end up saving you some money.
The bigger the surface area that needs to be covered, the cheaper it’ll be to install. This is because each panel has more solar cells meaning that you can install fewer panels and still generate the same amount of energy.
Fewer panels make your life easier as you won’t need to worry about racking or thinking of how to mount the solar panels.
The smaller 60 solar cell solar panels have lower labor costs however as they don’t require heavy machinery or cranes to lift the equipment.
While it’s safe to assume that a 72 solar cell panel will produce higher wattages and power outputs than the smaller 60-cell counterpart, it isn’t always true.
For example, a 310-Watt solar panel that has 72 solar cells can have a lower power output than a 60-cell 325W solar panel. But, most 72 solar cell solar panels tend to be more powerful than the 60 cell ones, you just have to look at the wattage and voltage of each.
You want to look for the solar panels that contain highly efficient solar cells and if you want the highest wattage, then the higher solar cell panels are the ones to invest in.
While 60 and 72 are the most common ones, there are smaller and more accessible solar panels with fewer solar cells.
A 32 solar cell panel has the fewest and is more commonly used in RVs and summer cabins not requiring too much energy to power. Most flexible solar panels fall under this category too.
Staying in the realm of the 30s is a 36 solar cell panel, one with enough output voltage to fully charge a lead-acid battery. This solar panel acts as a good starter for those looking to get into the world of solar panels.
Following that is a 48 solar cell panel that proves useful in maintenance tasks such as pumping water or combined to form a solar array used on roofs.
There’s a varying number of solar cells found within a solar panel. the most common are 60 and 72, but there are smaller sizes such as the 32 that don’t aim to power an entire house.
The amount of solar cells is dependent on the size of the panel and knowing which size works best for you is dependent on your solar needs.
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