Solar recycling experts tell you what are solar panels made of
Solar panels use photovoltaic technology to convert solar energy into electrical power. Let us take a look at the essential components of a solar panel and how they function.
Solar PV Cells
- The major functional component of the panels is solar photovoltaic cells. These cells work on the principle of the photovoltaic effect to convert sunlight into electricity. They are made of silicon which is a semiconductor. The efficiency of PV cells is dependent on the type of cells, their arrangement, and the characteristics of silicon used for manufacturing.
At the base of the PV cells lies a very thin wafer that is made from a positive p-type or negative n-type silicon. The base has a thickness of 0.1mm. Following are the three common types of solar panels:
- Monocrystalline silicon – Each PV cell is made of a single crystal of silicon.
- Polycrystalline silicon – PV cells are made of multiple fragments of silicon crystal that are fused together during the manufacture of the PV cells.
- Thin-film cells – thin layers of photovoltaic substances are placed over a substrate such as glass or plastic. Thin-film cells are used as flexible sheets.
- High-strength tempered glass sheets having a thickness of 3-4 mm are placed on top of the PV cells. These sheets protect the delicate solar cells from temperature extremities and physical and mechanical damage. These glass sheets are designed to resist the impact of hailstones that have a minimum diameter of 1 inch and are blowing at a speed of 27 m/s or 60 mph. These parameters are set by IEC as a part of the minimum standard impact test.
Good quality solar panels use glass that has high transmissivity. The benefit of such type of glass is that it contains very little iron and has anti-reflective properties which reduce both glare and losses of light to the PV panels placed underneath.
- The aluminum frame provides a solid structure for the panel which enables the panel to mount on the ground. It laminates the sheets of the PV cells and protects their edges. The type of aluminum used for framing solar panels is lightweight, stiff, has high mechanical resistance, and can withstand extreme stress from blowing winds and other external forces.
- EVA is short for ethylene-vinyl acetate. It is a highly transparent polymer that is used to enclose the PV cells and bind them in one place during the manufacturing process. EVA film acts as a protective coating and offers resistance against moisture loss and the ingress of dirt in between each photovoltaic cell. The EVA film should be durable and should be able to withstand extremities of both temperature and humidity.
EVA film present on either side of the PV cells acts as a shock absorber. It protects the cells and the wiring structure from vibrations felt due to the impact of hailstones and other physical objects. A high-quality EVA film also protects the cells from water ingress and prevents short-circuiting and other electrical failures.
- As the name indicates, the backsheet is present at the rear end of the solar panels. It is made of a different polymer of plastic materials such as PP, PET, and PVF. The purpose of the backsheet is to protect the PV cells from UV rays, hailstones and other harsh environmental elements.
Almost all components of a solar panel can be recycled to a major degree. To avail of the most cost-effective and technologically-advanced solar panel recycling services, contact PV2 Recycle. Our recycling services are compliant with all federal and state-level regulations.