There are three main types of solar panel for sale at present: monocrystalline, multicrystalline, and thin film panels. A fourth, sometimes known as vaporware, is sometimes mentioned in the media, but does not yet exist. There is no one best solar panel for every purpose, but each type of solar panel has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Monocrystalline Photovoltaic Panels:
- Most efficient, especially in low light conditions
- Less space required for the same amount of power
- More durable than Thin Film
- Most expensive per watt
- Production process uses more silicon and more energy
Polycrystalline/Multicrystalline Photovoltaic Panels:
- Lower price than Monocrystalline
- Higher efficiency than Thin Film
- Higher price per watt than Thin Film
- Lower efficiency than Monocrystalline
Amorphous/Thin Film Photovoltaic Panels:
- Cheapest per watt
- Can be made flexible
- Harder to break
- Uses less silicon and less energy during manufacture
- Degrades faster
- Lower efficiency
- More space required to produce the same amount of electricity
This doesn’t actually exist yet, but if it ever does, it will be photovoltaic material that you spray onto a substrate which then becomes a photovoltaic panel.
The type of application has a major impact on which type of solar panel is best for you. If you want to have solar panels on a backpack where the panels have to be flexible, your only choice is Amorphous/Thin Film panels. However, if you require the largest possible amount of electricity from the smallest area of solar panel and do not care about it being flexible, then Monocrystalline photovoltaic panels are best. The choice is up to you.