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Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline Solar Panels

A monocrystalline and a polycrystalline solar cellA monocrystalline and a polycrystalline solar cell: used to make mono and polycrystalline solar panels respectively.

What is the better photovoltaic solar panel technology for Australian conditions? Mono (multi) or poly?

Generally the answer depends on which solar salesman you speak to. If he's selling polycrystalline, surprise, surprise - poly is the best. If he's selling monocrystalline panels then… well, you get the picture.

Here's the truth. Ten years ago monocrystalline solar panels were slightly better. However, in more recent years there have been so many advances in polycrystalline technology that there is currently no practicable difference in the performance of these two technologies.

A mono and a polycrystalline panel


To make my point, let’s compare the specs of 2 similarly priced, good quality solar panels that were available in Australia back in 2012, one monocrystalline and one polycrystalline.

Monocrystalline: Suntech STP250S-20/Wd
Polycrystalline: Trina TSM-250PC05A

Spec

Mono Panel

Poly Panel

Efficiency

15.37%

15.27%

Temperature Coeff

-0.48 %/°C

-0.42%/°C

Performance Ratio

90.52%

91.64%

 

Efficiency: The polycrystalline panel is 0.1% less efficient. Bugger all difference.

Temperature coefficient: This is a measure of how much the power drops when the panel gets hot (solar panels like light, but don’t like heat).  The poly solar panel is a bit better according to the manufacturer's spec: -0.06%/°C better. But bear in mind that this specification is notoriously unreliable if you rely on the manufacturers to measure it! And even if it is accurate, this would mean that the polycrystalline panel would only produce 2% more power than the mono if both panels were at 65°C. Not enough to worry about in my opinion.

Performance Ratio: This is the most important spec in my opinion. That's because the number comes from an independent test commissioned by the California Energy Commission, not from the manufacturers. It shows how much power the panel will produce in real world conditions compared to the manufacturer's specification. As you can see, the polycrystalline panel wins over the monocrystalline, but only by 1.02%. Again, very little difference.

So there you have it when it comes to monocrystalline vs polycrystalline solar panels – don’t worry about it – just go for a good brand with an Australian presence, good warranties and a good performance ratio. Learn more about how to choose a good PV module and how much solar panels cost, or check out our solar panel reviews section.