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Find reviews of the best Solar Products, SMA Sunny Boy, Aurora Power-One, Growatt, SunPower, SolaX, QCells, Trina Solar, Jinko, Selectronic, Tesla Powerwall, ABB, SMA Sunny Island, Hybrid inverters, battery sizing, Lithium-ion, lead-acid batteries, off-grid, on-grid, stand-alone power systems

Top 10 Solar Panels and latest PV Technology Review

Jason Svarc

Solar cells close up Mulitcrystalline.jpg

 

Best Quality Solar panel manufacturers

There are many solar module manfacturers on the Australian market which can make it difficult to select a quality panel that will perform over the expected 25 year life of a solar PV system. Here is our list of the most reputable panel manufacturers based on feedback from solar industry professionals and installers, manufacturers service history, quality, performance and value for money. See full review here

Top 10 Solar panels for 2017

  1. LG energy

  2. SunPower

  3. Winaico

  4. REC

  5. Trina Solar

  6. Hanwha Q cells

  7. Jinko Solar

  8. Canadian Solar

  9. Seraphim

  10. JA Solar

 

Popular panels using the latest technology

Most panel manufacturers offer a range of models including mono-crystalline and multi-crystalline varieties with various efficiency ratings and warranty conditions. Solar panel efficiency has increased substantially over the last few years due to many advances in PV cell technology. Most of the recent models from the top manufacturers incorporate the latest innovations in panel technology which we describe in detail below. These include PERC, bifacial, multi busbar and half size cells which all offer various efficiency improvements and can increase reliability with some manufacturers now offering up to 30 year performance warranties.

LG Neon 2 close angle High res s.jpg

With all the new options available it is worth doing some research before you invest in a solar installation. In our complete solar panel review article here we explain how to select a quality panel and highlight the highest quality manufacturers on the market. From the well regarded manufacturers there are several models which have become very popular among Australian solar professionals and installers due to either high performance, quality, support or value for money.

  • LG - Neon 2 Range (multi-wire busbar)

  • REC - TwinPeak 2 range (half cells)

  • Trina Solar - Honey range (PERC)

  • Q cells - Q.Antum Range (PERC)

See full details in the complete solar panel review article here

 

Latest Solar cell Technology

Mono vs Poly silicon cells

There is an ongoing debate about the superior PV cell technology between monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon cells. Monocrystalline cells (mono) which are cut from a single crystal ingot are more efficient but are more expensive to manufacture, which lead the way for polycrystalline technology to become the preferred cell type used, in particular during the last 5 years. Polycrystalline cells, also known as multicrystalline cells (multi), are grown from multifaceted crystalline material (grown in multiple directions) which are cheaper to produce. Both are still widely manufactured and very reliable but mono cells are still considered the superior technology.

 Monocrystalline cells are generally dark black/blue in colour with diamond pattern while poly or multicrystalline cells are square edged and appear blue in colour.  

 Monocrystalline cells are generally dark black/blue in colour with diamond pattern while poly or multicrystalline cells are square edged and appear blue in colour.
 

The Future is PERC Cells

Over the last year PERC cells have emerged as the premium technology for many manufacturers. PERC stands for 'Passivated Emitter Rear Cell' which is basically a process which adds an additional layer on the back of the solar cell to reflect some of the light photons which manage to pass through the cell back into the cell, thus increasing total efficiency.

Q cells pioneered the PERC technology in mulitcrystalline cells but use the name Q.antum for their range of PERC modules. Jinko solar recently broke the solar efficiency record with 22.04% recorded from a standard size multicrystalline (p-type) silicon cell. PERC technology has been available for a few years and is advancing rapidy with manymanufacturers developing their next generation panels using PERC cells.

The PERC rear layer (Local AI-BSF) used by Trina Solar

The PERC rear layer (Local AI-BSF) used by Trina Solar

Multiple / Wire Busbars

LG Neon 2 cells with 12 wire busbars (Cello technology)

LG Neon 2 cells with 12 wire busbars (Cello technology)

The busbars are the thin wires or ribbons which run down each cell and carry the electrons (current) through the solar module. As PV cells have become more efficient they generate more current and over the last 5 years most manufacturers have moved from 3 busbars up to 4 or 5 busbars. The compromise is that the busbars actually shade part of the cell and so can slightly reduce performance if they are too large, so they need to be very carefully designed. On the other hand multiple busbars provide lower resistance and a shorter path for the electrons to travel resulting in higher performance.

LG have developed a unique technology on their NEON 2 modules using multiple small round wires rather than thin busbars, known an Cello which stands for 'cell connection, electrically low loss, low stress and optical absorption enhancement'. Essentially the CELLO Multi wire busbar technology lowers electrical resistance and increases panel efficiency.

 

The REC twin peak range of panels were some of the first available with split cells.

The REC twin peak range of panels were some of the first available with split cells.

Split Modules and Half Cells

Another recent innovation is using half cut cells rather than full size square cells and moving the junction box to the center of the module. This effectively splits the solar panel into 2 smaller panels of 50% capacity each. This has multiple benefits with the main being increased performance due to lower resistive losses through the bus bars (current collectors) since each cell is half size it produces half the current and as resistance is proportional to current, it reduces losses, improving efficiency and power output of a similar sized panel by up to 20W. Another benefit is that it allows partial shading on the upper or lower part of the panel to not effect the entire power output of the panel.

REC twin peak solar panel s.jpg

The REC twin peak range of split panels have been available for some time and now many other manufacturers are following suit with split panels being released by Trina Solar, Q-cells, Canadian Solar and Jinko solar.

 

BiFacial Solar Cells

Bifacial solar technology has been available for several years but is starting to become popular as the cost to manufacture the very high quality monocrystalline cells required continues to decrease. Bifacial cells absorb light from both sides of the panel and in the right conditions can produce up to 30% more energy than traditional monofacial panels. The bifacial solar panels use a front and rear glass system to encapsulate the cells which is more durable than the traditional plastic laminate back sheet used on regular panels. The glass rear side lasts longer with lower degradation over time and can significantly reduce the risk of failure, with some manufacturers offering 30 year performance warranties on their bifacial panels.

Bifacial cells can absorb energy from both sides of the cell - LG Neon 2 bifacial panel

Bifacial cells can absorb energy from both sides of the cell - LG Neon 2 bifacial panel

Traditionally bi-facial solar panels were only used in unique locations where the sunlight is bounced or reflected off the surrounding surfaces, in particular snow-prone regions and extreme latitudes. Although they have been proven to work well when ground mounted over light sandy surfaces and are also able to achieve up to 10% more output even on light coloured rooftops.

Manufacturers producing bifacial panels include Trina solar, LG energy and Jinko Solar.

Smart Solar Panels

A new technology which is slowly becoming popular is the addition of integrated power (DC) optimisers within the solar panel. Optimsers are basically small chips which have the ability to bypass shaded or dirty cells that would otherwise reduce the total output of the solar array and can over time generate hot spots, reducing the life of the panel. Separate power optimisers from companies such as Tigo and SolarEdge have been available as an add-on part for many years but now a few manufacturers are making panels with inbuilt optimisers within the junction box on the back of the panel. Jinko Solar have introduced the Eagle MX range of solar panels using the Maxim Integrated optimiser chips. These smart chips from Maxim Integrated go beyond the traditional add-on optimiser and separate the panel into 3 strings of cells which enables the panel to operate at the optimum MPPT voltage even when partially shaded or dirty. However it is worth noting that some installers have reported customers having RFI interference issues (TV & radio) using this new technology.

Maxim Integrated solar optimisers greatly improve performance when individual cells are shaded.

Maxim Integrated solar optimisers greatly improve performance when individual cells are shaded.