Different Types of Solar Panels, Explained


Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single circular silicon crystal, cut into slices, commonly referred to as silicon wafers. These silicon wafers are then trimmed to squares to maximise space. These wafers are not trimmed to a perfect square, but with rounded edges to reduce wastage while allowing more wafers to be assembled close together for space efficiency. This gives the monocrystalline solar panels their signature rounded edges and uniform dark blue, almost black colour.

Due to the manufacturing process, monocrystalline solar panels are more expensive. The process is energy-intensive and uses pure silicon crystal, which is costly. However, the efficiency of monocrystalline is higher than any other materials commercially available. You can generate the maximum amount of solar energy by deploying monocrystalline panels.


Polycrystalline solar panels are made from silicon fragments, melted and poured into a mould, which gives its unique blue-speckled look. The silicon fragments can also come from the trimmings of the monocrystalline silicon wafers. This resulted in less wastage and a more straightforward manufacturing process, making it more affordable.

This also contributed to the popularity of polycrystalline panels, making up almost 50% market share. The combination of affordability and efficiency offers excellent value to many homeowners and businesses looking to deploy solar PV systems without breaking the bank.


The key characteristics of thin film solar panels are their thinness compared to monocrystalline or polycrystalline. They are made by depositing thin layers of photovoltaic materials, barely 0.3 to 2 micrometres, on a backing such as glass or plastic. This allows them to be lightweight and flexible. Thin film solar panels can be made using these materials:

  • Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) is the oldest and most mature thin-film solar technology. It is affordable, but not the most efficient. It also makes its way into small computer electronics, such as calculators.
  • Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) is another low cost option with better efficiency than amorphous silicon. It also generally has the fastest energy payback time of all solar panels type. However, due to the toxic nature of cadmium, it is harder and more expensive to recycle.
  • Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) is the most efficient thin-film material commercially available for now, close to crystalline silicon. The labour-intensive manufacturing process causes CIGS panels to be expensive.
  • Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) is a new solar panel technology with great weather resistance, low-light performance, and higher module efficiency. However, due to the complicated manufacturing process and expensive price point, it is not mass-produced and widely adopted yet. It is currently used mainly for spacecraft and satellites.

Solar Panels Efficiency

Among the commercially available panels in Singapore, monocrystalline silicon panels are the most efficient in generating solar power.

  • Monocrystalline: 12.5 - 15% module efficiency
  • Polycrystalline: 11 - 14% module efficiency
  • Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS): 10 - 13% module efficiency
  • Cadmium Telluride (CdTe): 9 - 12% module efficiency
  • Amorphous Silicon (a-Si): 5 - 7% module efficiency

Which one to use?

The best panel for your use case depends heavily on the available space and the location. There’s no one size fits all solution; therefore, your solar contractor can advise you to find the best solar panels for your needs after a site visit. However, you can take these points as a rule of thumb:

  • Limited space? Go with monocrystalline. Generate as much energy as you can with the best-performing panels.
  • Best value? Go with polycrystalline. Lower upfront cost while still getting decent performance.
  • Thin roofs? Go with thin films. Leverage the flexibility and ease of thin film installation to make solar energy work wherever you want.


We hope you find this information useful. If you want to deploy solar panels for your business, check out Flo Solar Solutions. We will finance, install, and maintain solar panels on your roof at zero cost to you. You get to enjoy solar power generated at an affordable solar tariff, which helps you to save on your electricity bill and reduce your carbon footprint.

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