What Are Solar Panels Made Of? How are Solar Panels Made?

Last updated on June 28, 2022

With the changing seasons and approaching summer, we can see how large an influence the sun has on our lives in Australia. The sun generates twice as many hours of energy as humans use every day.

To harness this energy, solar panels have become more readily available with improving performance and manufacturing efficiencies over the last decade. Almost all new home constructions have rooftops that are covered by solar panels.

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    What are solar panels?

    Solar panels are equipment that convert sunlight into electricity. They are made up of a number of individual solar cells, which are connected together to form a panel.

    what are solar panels

    Solar panels are typically made from silicon, which is a semi-conducting material. When light hits the solar panel, it causes electrons to be knocked loose from the atoms of the silicon. These electrons flow through the solar panel to create an electric current.

    Panels are made up of several different parts, including solar cells, metal frames, glass covers, and wiring. The number of solar cells in a panel can vary, but most panels have between 36 and 72 cells.

    The solar cells are one of the key components of a solar panel, and they are what actually converts sunlight into electricity.

    Modern photovoltaic cells include:

    • Front and back electrical contacts
    • Glass
    • Anti-reflective coating
    • P-type layer
    • N-type silicon base
    • P-N junction
    • Back surface field
    • Aluminium contact
    • Polymer back sheet

    What are solar panels made from?

    The core materials that are used for the production of solar panels are silicon, Solar cells, metal frames, glass covers, and wiring.

    solar panels components

    Silicon:  Silicon is a semiconducting material that is found in sand. When light hits the silicon, it knocks off electrons away from the atoms of the silicon. These electrons flow through the solar panel to create an electric current.

    Solar Cells:  Solar cells are the structures that convert sunlight into electricity. A solar cell is made up of two layers of silicon. One layer has a positive charge, while the other has a negative charge.

    solar cell diagram

    Credit: Treehugger

    When sunlight hits the solar cell, it causes the electrons to flow from the negative side to the positive side. This creates an electric current that can be used to power appliances or stored. 

    Metal frames: The metal frame provides the structural support for the solar panel system, and ensures the entire system is held together. 

    The aluminium frames play an important role in protecting the laminated portion of the solar cells while providing a solid structural framework for mounting the panels in place.

    Extruded Aluminium sections are designed for very lightweight stiffness and strong resistance to extreme wind conditions.

    The aluminium frame can be black silver or anodised black and depending on the manufacturer, the corner parts can be screwed, pressed or clamped to accommodate various strengths and stiffness levels.

    solar panel frame

    Glass Cover:  The glass cover protects the solar cells from damage. Glass panels protect PV panels from weather and from impact with hail. The glass is a typically tempered glass with good strength of 3.0-4.0 mm thickness and resists mechanical pressures and extreme heat changes.

    In order to comply with IEC standards, the panel must withstand a hailstone up to 50 km/h (27m/h) in diameter.

    The tempered glass shatters into smaller pieces in the event that accidental or significant damage occurs.

    For improved efficiency and performance, high transmissive glass, which contains a very low iron content, is used by most manufacturers.

    solar panel tempered glass cover

    Wiring: The wiring connects the solar cells to each other and to the power source.

    How long do solar panels last?

    solar panel life

    Solar panels are built to last for decades. Most manufacturers offer a 25-year warranty on their products.

    How are solar panels made: The Production Process

    It is fairly simple to produce solar panels professionally, given the few main components of silicon, metal and glass.

    All three components are assembled into solar panels which contribute to the production of renewable energy from renewable materials.

    Solar panels are made using a process called photovoltaic (PV) production. PV production involves creating solar cells, which are then connected together to form a panel.

    First, silicon is purified and melted down into a liquid. It is then poured into moulds called ingots, which give the silicon its shape. Afterwards, the ingots are cut into wafers,or thin pieces of silicon.

    The solar cells are then created by adding impurities to the silicon wafers. The impurities create what are called “p-type” and “n-type” layers in the solar cell. These layers are what allow the solar cell to create an electric current.

    Finally, the solar cells are connected together to form a panel. The panels are then covered with a glass sheet and fixed together within a metal frame.

    Do solar panels degrade with time?

    The most reliable solar system has no moving parts and requires minimal maintenance. The product lifespan is generally anticipated at a 25 year lifespan, with different reasons for the failure.

    Normal cells gradually lose power through light degradation, with a minor light loss per annum. 

    This slow degradation is typically not noticeable and most solar panels can operate with 80% or greater of initial power capacity despite having deteriorated after 20 years.

    The extent of the degradation can be determined by the manufacturer performance warranties and can be found in the warranty section.

    What are the types of solar panels?

    Available solar panels are mono-crystalline, poly-crystalline and thin film type. Thin Film monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are among the best solar panels available on the market. 

    The differences between mono and polycrystalline solar panels are that monocrystalline solar panels are made from silicon cells with only one crystal whereas polycrystalline panels are made from melting together several silicon crystals.

    Due to their crystalline composition, monocrystalline panel panels are more efficient however more costly than polycrystalline panels.

    monocrystalline solar panel
    polycrystalline solar panel

    How are solar panels assembled and manufactured

    Solar panel assembly can be accomplished by automated robots or a combination of automated robots to position components with a high degree of precision. Manufacturing plants should be highly efficient to ensure that there is no contamination at the assembly line. 

    During the manufacturing stage, panels and cells are monitored and checked with advanced optical sensors to ensure the exact placement of components and that the cell wafers, which are delicate, do not suffer damage during the manufacturing process.

    Are solar panels toxic?

    Despite a few reports of toxic solar panels, there is still no evidence to support this conclusion.

    Claims about toxic solar panels are largely related to obsolete thin-film CdTe solar cells. The trace amount of cadmium in this layer is allowed to dissolve in water. 

    A typical silicon solar panel, however, contains no conductive lead soldered for cell interconnection.

    How do solar panels work: The infographic view

    solar panel working mechanism diagram

    Where do the materials for solar panels come from?

    The materials for solar panels all come from the earth. Silicon, metal, and glass are all mined from the earth.

    What are the raw materials needed to make solar panels?

    The raw materials needed to make solar panels are: Silicon, Metal and Glass

    Where are solar panels manufactured?

    Solar panels are manufactured in factories. The factories are usually located near the mines where the raw materials are found.

    ☑️ First step:  Mining

    The first step is to mine the raw materials. Silicon, metal, and glass are all mined from the earth.

    ☑️ Second step: Refining

    The next step is to refine the raw materials. The silicon is purified and processed into ingots. The metal is cast into sheets and the glass is cut into cells.

    ☑️ Third step: doping

    Doping is the process of adding impurities to the silicon. This is what gives silicon its electrical properties.

    ☑️ Fourth step: growing crystals

    The silicon ingots are heated to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and then cooled to form single crystals.

    ☑️ Fifth step: slicing the crystal

    The single crystals are sliced into thin wafers.

    ☑️ Sixth step: making the solar cells

    The solar cells are made by sandwiching the wafers between two layers of conducting material.

    ☑️ Seventh step: testing

    The solar cells are tested to see if they meet the standards set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

    ☑️ Eighth step: packaging

    The solar cells are packaged into solar modules and then into panels.

    Are solar panels made of glass or plastic?

    Solar panels are made of glass. Plastic is only used to cover the solar cells to protect them from the environment.

    What is the cost of producing solar panels?

    The cost of producing solar panels has dropped significantly throughout the years. The cost of silicon has fallen by 99% since 1975. The cost of energy produced from solar panels is now typically cheaper than energy from coal or natural gas.

    Can I make my own solar panels?

    Yes, you can make your own solar panels. However, it is not recommended unless you are a qualified engineer.

    Who is the largest manufacturer of solar panels?

    SunPower, Jinko Solar, and Canadian Solar, Trina Solar are some of the largest producers of solar panels.

    What kind of solar panel is right for me?

    The type of solar panel that best suits your space depends on a number of factors, including geography, area, application intended and personal needs. There are three main types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film.

    Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a single crystal of silicon. They are the most efficient type of solar panel, but they are also the most expensive.

    Polycrystalline solar panels are made from multiple crystals of silicon. They are less efficient than monocrystalline solar panels, but are less expensive.

    Thin-film solar panels are made from a thin layer of semiconductor material. They are the least efficient type of solar panel, and are also the least expensive.

    Is solar panel installation right for you? What should you consider before installing solar panels? 

    things to know before going solar

    Installing solar panels is a great way to save money on your energy bill and help the environment. However, there are a few things you should consider before installing solar panels.

    1. The cost of the solar panels. Solar panels are a significant investment, and you will need to account for the cost of the panels in your budget.

    2. The installation process. Solar panel installation can be a complex process, and you should be prepared to handle the installation, or to find an entity that guarantees the process.

    3. The maintenance of the solar panels. Solar panels require very little maintenance, however, you regularly need to check the panels to make sure that they are free from debris and that the connections are secure. 

    4. The lifespan of the solar panels. Solar panels have a lifespan of 25 years or more, but you will need to factor the cost of replacement into your budget.

    5. The warranty on the solar panels. Good solar panel manufacturers should offer a warranty, however, you will need to verify that the warranty covers the cost of replacement and repair.

    6. The location of the solar panels. Solar panels need to be installed in an area that receives direct sunlight. The location and area will also affect your budget. 

    7. The size of the solar panels. Solar panels are available in a variety of sizes, and the different sizes can directly impact the system production output and your budget.

    Can You recycle solar panels?

    Solar panels are a key tool in the fight against climate change, but what happens to them when they reach the end of their life?

    The good news is that almost all the components of solar panels can be recycled. However, the recycling process requires highly specialized and expensive equipment that very few factories are fit to handle solar panel recycling. 

    This means that most solar panels end up in landfills, taking up valuable space and releasing harmful toxins into the environment. Even though the recycling process is complex and expensive, it is essential and key to look into in order to ensure that solar panels don’t end up causing more harm than good.

    By working on improving recycling infrastructure, solar panels can be properly disposed of at the end of their life, without damaging the environment.

    Your solar panel seller or installer should let you know whether recycling is a good option for you or not. Many solar panel manufacturers have programs that allow users to return or replace solar panels at the end of their life, offering a discount on the price of a new system, 

    Is coal used in the production of solar panels?

    Though it may seem counterintuitive, the production of solar panels actually requires the use of coal. Coal is used as a raw material to produce the chemicals used in the manufacturing process, specifically polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

    Talk to Solar experts today!

    Long exposure to intense sunlight and availability of space for solar panels make Australia an ideal location for installing rooftop panels.

    E-Green Electrical is well-positioned in the market as an expert solar system installer and an expert on solar systems in general. We invite everyone to get in touch today to find out more about solar panels and how you can start saving sooner.

    Our solar energy expert can estimate the envisaged savings you could receive from installing a solar panel system at home or for a commercial property.

    zero upfront solar panel

    Get in touch today!

    Why should you contact E-Green Electrical for Solar Panel Installation?

    • Fast Installation
    • Experienced and Qualified Electricians
    • Specialized in the solar installation
    • Expert engineering capability in solar installations
    • Highest standards guaranteed and delivered by our team
    • Special Operation & Maintenance services offered to mitigate a shortage
    • Our customer’s needs are our top priority & we work to find the best solution that fits their needs.

    solar panels made from

    You may be eligible for a DISCOUNTED solar system installed on your home. You will need to meet specific criteria and reside in an eligible location.

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      Gaurav Sharma

      At E-Green Electrical , Gaurav writes about Electrical energy, Solar energy, Energy conservation and electrical product reviews. He is most interested in how we can utilize technology and renewable resources to reduce energy consumption , prevent pollution and save money at the same time.

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