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Why are most solar panels blue?

Francisco CastroJune 4, 2019870

A quick look at your neighbors with solar panels on their roof will reveal a hard truth - most of them have a blue hue.

Although there are black ones, at least in residential solar arrays, the predominant color is blue.

The bluish color comes from the type of solar panel being used. There are two different types of solar panels: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. 

Mono vs Poly

The two basic types of solar panels are mono and poly. Their function is the same:  absorb the sunlight and convert it into the electric current. The more it absorbs the sunlight, the more it produces the electric current. 

Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single silicon crystal. Silicon is a non-metallic element that is used in most modern electronics. 

The silicon is melted, crystalized into ingots which are then cut into thin wafers, mounted grid shape. They are easily recognized by their black color and each individual silicon wafer has rounded corners.
 
They are the oldest and most developed technology to deliver the highest energy efficiency.  Black surfaces naturally absorb more light. You can feel this yourself. If you’re wearing a black T-shirt you will feel more heat than if you were wearing a red one.

Monocrystalline panels can last 25+ years because of the high purity silicon which is very stable and inert.

Several of the early modules installed in the 1970's are still producing electricity today. 

If you have limited space in your roof or your property, they are the best best. They’re also more resistant to high temperatures and the energy loss it causes. But they are also more expensive. 

Also, they tend to be more fragile and if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow fall and dust, installing monocrystalline panels may not be the best choice. If they are covered by heavy snow, the fragile solar cells can be damaged and the whole circuit can break down.

Polycrystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are made from a number of different pure silicon crystals melted together and then poured into a cast instead of being made into a single crystal. This process doesn’t align the silicon perfectly, which results in the formation of many individual silicon crystals within the mold.
This is the reason why they get their bluish color. That and an anti-reflective coating that helps improve the absorbing capacity and efficiency of the solar panels

This also makes them less pure and so, less efficient. Generally speaking, polycrystalline panels have an efficiency that is about 70% to 80% of a comparable monocrystalline solar panel. 

This means you will need more space to get the same power output as you would with a solar panel made of monocrystalline cells.

But they are also less expensive. Many people that don’t want to invest too much money in a solar system, but still expect great financial benefits out of it, choose to go with polycrystalline solar PV modules.

Also, for people interested in limiting their carbon footprint, the polycrystalline cell manufacturing process leads to less waste and energy use than that needed to produce monocrystalline cells. 

About 90% of the solar panels on the market today are polycrystalline, and consequently, most solar panels have a blue hue to them.

Which is right for you?

In ideal conditions, where full sun is available the polycrystalline solar panels perform as good, and even slightly better than the mono. They are also more cost effective for limited budgets. 

But if you live in a cloudy or foggy area, your best bet is monocrystalline because black absorbs all light spectrums, even through clouds, while blue is best in direct blue light. 

So while the polycrystalline cell may be more cost effective, and produce slightly more in direct sunlight, the mono cell may be better aesthetically and excels in low light conditions. 

If aesthetics are important to you, then the black monocrystalline panels are the right choice. Nowadays there are a number of new color configurations, silver backing, white backing and even black-on-black that presents an even more modern look. 

Tom Kendall, a PV Consultant, also notes in an Internet message board devoted to solar power questions that “Most manufacturers offer the blue vs black options for the same panel. For example, a black panel may be rated at 280 watts, but the blue option will be rated at 285 watts.”

So the choices are really across the board. Both types of panels will get the job done, converting sunlight into electricity to  power your appliances and your house. You can’t go wrong with either choice. To make the best decision for your home, consider your needs and budget. 

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