On Current and Changing Technology in Solar Power

With regularity we at Northwest Renewables are asked about state-of-the art developments in solar power, and about research teams scrambling to build more efficient and utilitarian solar technologies such as thin-film and integral solar roofing shingles.  Our residential and commercial solar work though primarily focuses on monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels as these are the dominate products available in the North American market.

Crystalline silicon is the base material for both monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar power panels.  Both products start as a silicon crystal ‘seed’ which is placed within a vat of molten silicon.  From there ‘mono’ crystalline is slowly removed from the vat, and ‘poly’ crystalline is simply allowed to cool.

Previously thought to be inferior, polycrystalline cells have become the dominant technology in the marketplace due to a less costly manufacturing process.  While slightly less space efficient than monocrystalline, on large solar power projects without space constraints polycrystalline panels certainly deserve consideration during a solar design.  These larger projects can generally afford the expense of additional panels to equal solar production and do so with considerably less cost.

Presently in Washington State where much of Northwest Renewables work is done, residential solar power installations are largely utilizing made-in-Washington monocrystalline panels and capitalizing on Washington state’s solar production incentives.  In coming years as these state incentives decrease and polycrystalline continues to improve, we may begin to move some of our residential installations over to poly.

Lastly, as the state-of-the art continues to improve we at Northwest Renewables remain committed to thoughtfully analyzing each project’s unique criteria, and NWR will adopt such technological developments when the time is right.

– Gavin Tenold