Solar Panels in Australia
The use of solar panels in Australia for homes has skyrocketed in the past 5 years. When Solar Charge pioneered and installed our first solar power system on a Melbourne suburban home way back in 1998 the most common type of solar panel (PV module) was crystalline silicon (X-Si). They come in two forms: Monocrystalline Si and Polycrystalline Si. Both have similar module performance due to the better coverage of area under the glass by poly Si. As the market developed Solar Charge has always stayed with only the best quality products, also known as Tier 1.
Performance of Solar Panels
Courtesy from one of our recent clients, we can offer you a live performance data from one of our installations.
BP Solar used to dominate the Australian market through the 80s and 90s with modules manufactured in their Sydney factory. Solar Charge was a major supplier of BP Solar / Solarex solar panels since the 1970's for remote homes using battery storage, caravans, boats and navigational aids. BP Solar closed their Sydney factory in 2008 and later withdrew from the market due to price competition from cheap Chinese manufacturers and a corporate refocus on core business. There have been many brands introduced into Australia in the past six years with varying quality. These are called Tier 1, 2 or 3. Amongst the Tier 1 suppliers of solar panels are Bosch Solar (from Germany).
German Solar Panels from Bosch
Bosch Solar produce the complete PV module in their Anstadt factory in Germany. Raw semiconductor grade silicon is cast into wafer and then processed into solar cells by doping the top layer to form a P-N junction. This P-N junction creates current flow when light is shone on the silicon semiconductor wafer. This is called the photovoltaic or PV effect. Individual cells of Si can produce around 0.5 volts in sunshine. To utilise this power the cells are typically covered with gridlines and interconnected together in strings of cells in a solar module or panel. These in turn are wired in strings of panels on the roof in a typical household solar power system.
Other Types Of Solar Modules
The rapid uptake of solar power for Melbourne homes in the past few years has also seen the introduction of other types of solar modules. These include amorphous Si (A-Si) and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) based solar panels. These panels use less semiconductor material and are referred to as thin-film modules. They are supposedly cheaper to make but recent improvements in traditional mono-Si manufacturing have negated much of this advantage. Thin film panels are less efficient so use a larger area on the roof for a given output, but are less effected by heat. They are typically made with long strips of cells in the module which along with their weaker fill-factor, (shape of I-V curve) also makes them more tolerant of partial shading. The more common mono or poly crystalline panels utilise by-pass diode to reduce the effect of partial shade.