Thin-Film Solar Goes Head-to-Head With Crystalline

Image credit: Conergy USA
Thin-Film vs Crystalline Solar: Parallel Installation
There is always much excitement around thin-film solar projects. =From reports that thin-film could compete with fossil fuels in ten years, to news of the world's largest thin-film solar installation. But does the technology really live up to the hype? And how does thin-film compare in performance to traditional crystalline solar? A large installation in California's Central Valley may hold some of the answers, with giant crystalline and thin-film solar tracking arrays placed next to each other. So how are the two different technologies performing?
The 1.6MW installation, for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, was created in two phases - one using traditional crystalline cells, and the other using thin-film technology. The hope is that the two arrays can offer insight into differing performance, particularly in the dusty, foggy conditions found in the valley. Renewable Energy World brings us the scoop on just how the thin-film vs crystalline solar shoot out is shaping up:

Thin-film modules "can outperform monocrystalline in areas prone to hazy, overcast conditions or in industries that generate dust or high degrees of air particulates," according to Vincent. They are also superior when there is frequent fog, such as in coastal areas. The reason, he says, is the sensitivity of the thin-film cells to a broader span of the solar spectrum, including infrared and ultraviolet regions.

Thin-film cells also should perform better when dust covers the surface, he added. Another advantage of thin-film modules is that less interconnect is needed between cells, so that there is less rise in resistivity and heat loss on hot days, he explained. Early indications, Vincent says, are that the output/DC kW of the thin-film modules is about 10% higher that of the monocrystalline.

Essentially the results so far can be summed up that, in the hazy conditions at this site, thin-film is producing more energy, and costing 10%-15% less than crystalline. The only downside is that it also requires more space - about 10%-15% more land for the same output. Head over to Renewable Energy World for all the technical specifications of the San Joaquin solar project, or check out installer Conergy's projects page. We'll be watching with interest to see how the costs stack up over time.

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