Solar Panels: Benefits of Thin Film Technology

March 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Solar Panels

When most of us think of solar panels, we picture large steel structures that hold a long array of cells. These are “thick” solar panels that use crystalline silicon as a semiconductor. Though effective at converting sunlight into usable, renewable energy, traditional solar panels require copious space and can be costly. Fortunately, new innovations in solar technology may soon make solar panels much easier to afford. Thin film photovoltaic (PV) solar panels work the same way the older ones do, but hold the semiconductor material within the PV cell. This makes them faster, easier to manufacture, and smaller, which makes them more functional and suited to everyday use.

When PV panels are exposed to sunlight, the semiconductor material is immediately activated to produce an electric current. It can instantaneously power appliances. Or you can use them to store electricity in batteries to use later. While it might take a few days to install a traditional solar panel system, thin film PV panels are much faster and easier to install. They are actually available in ‘peel and stick’ laminate that can adhere right to the panels of your roof.

Another way that PV technology benefits consumers is that it is much faster to mass produce, and therefore less expensive. “Thick” solar panels have to be produced one by one in a labor intensive process, with each cell on its own silicon wafer. Thin film solar PV panels are much better suited to automated processes for mass production and require cheaper materials. This means more businesses will be interested in entering the solar panel market. As production and availability increase, prices will decrease even more so that they will soon be affordable for homes and businesses everywhere.

Because thin film solar cells are more compact and light weight, they can be used for more applications than ever before. Electronic devices already able to be powered by PV technology include cell phones, MP3 players, GPS devices, and even laptops and televisions. These new PV cells are not even recognizable compared to their “thick” panel predecessors. Portable thin film panels are small and lightweight enough to be carried on your person. Instead of requiring a large steel structure to support an array of large, unwieldy solar panels, thin film solar PV panels can be built right into a building’s roof or wall, or can be applied right to existing panels. In fact, new thin film PV shingles and metal roofing panels are already available for use in construction.

If you’re like most people, solar panels have always sounded like a good idea but too complicated for the average consumer. Thanks to the latest developments in thin film solar PV technology, what once seemed suitable for only the radically environmentally conscious will soon be commonplace. It won’t take long before solar PV cells will be an easy, widely available, inexpensive option for people to power their homes and devices while saving on energy costs and contributing to a cleaner environment.