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An Introduction to Thin Film Solar Panels and Their Applications

Thin Film Solar Panels
Solar energy is fast growing as the most popular source of renewable energy. Here is a brief overview that will help you understand solar technology, its domestic applications, and the advantages of using this energy source...
Anuja Marathe Kanhere
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
Solar energy is available in abundance and can be captured through the usage of photovoltaic panels and heating engines. It has been widely harnessed around the world for domestic use through applications designed for heating and cooling home spaces, cooking, lighting homes, water heating, water purification through distillation and disinfection processes, thermal wear, solar-powered vehicles, solar calculators; the list is endless. With extensive usage of this energy, arose a need to bring more innovation in energy harnessing techniques. Initially when introduced, the solar panels tended to be extremely heavy and costly. Over a period of time, the technology has undergone a change, with manufacturers looking for lighter and cheaper options to help cater to customers from every strata. Presently, this article will enlighten you about thin film panels and their advantages.
The Sun and Solar Technology
Suns rays and rotation
Research shows that the Earth's surface receives approximately 174 PW (peta watts) of solar radiation, of which a majority get reflected back into space with just a small proportion getting absorbed by clouds and water bodies. The total amount of energy reaching the Earth's surface adds up to approximately 3,850,000 EJ (exajoules) per year. Solar technology is broadly classified into active and passive solar technologies based on methods applied for capturing, converting and distributing this energy. Active solar techniques involve installation of large photovoltaic (PV) panels in huge open areas while passive solar techniques involve usage of solar architecture methods during construction and usage of heat absorbing natural materials in building structures.
General Information
In recent years, we have seen an introduction of 'state-of-the-art' thin film solar panels or TFSPs which consists of a variety of cells made out of Cadmium Telluride (Cd Te), Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS), Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) and Micro Crystalline Silicon. The cells are manufactured by creating one or more thin layers of PV on a surface. The thickness of these cells can be calculated in nanometers or a few micrometers. The usage of this new technology is hiking with the utility rate expected to hit approximately 30% of the total globally installed power by the year 2013.
Solar panel installation
These solar panels are widely available for domestic as well as commercial use and can be installed atop building roofs either as a fixture on a roof surface or embedded on the top as a roof covering. They are lighter in weight than PV panels and are steady against the wind. If embedded as a roof of building structure, they are even extremely safe to walk on. The cost of these panels is expected to fall to approximately $50 per m2 in the near future. However, you can easily make these panels at home on your own and save on the expenditure.
Efficiency of TFSPs
Primitively, TFSPs were used in very small proportions in hand calculator devices. This technology is now used on a bigger scale in vehicle and construction industries. Designed to overcome the limitations of a modest photovoltaic panel (PV), the features of a TFSP include higher efficiency in energy conversion and cheaper production expenditure. The total number of charge carriers per incident photon are lesser in a TFSP, which makes the quantum efficiency of TFSP lesser than PV, but this is offset by the significantly lower cost of production of these panels. There is extensive usage of light trapping technology to increase the radiation absorption in TFSP films. Also, the thermal techniques help to increase the clarity of the silicon chips and control the electronic defects.
Advantages of Use
Installing TFSPs at home can bring you many advantages, with the most obvious being, of course, a reduction in your electric bill. Here are some more advantages of installing these solar panels at home.
Solar panels on terrace
  • It is a highly dependable source of power supply for your home with least dependency on the general electricity supply. In the long run, it will curtail your overall expenditure on power consumption.
  • They are extremely light in weight with better efficiency than older solar technologies.
  • The initial installation cost might be on the higher side but the maintenance cost is extremely low.
Ecological house with solar energy
  • Longtime users of solar power say that they feel the satisfaction of contributing to an eco-friendly environment.
  • Homes which are self-sufficient in solar power generation have a higher market value.
From the above points, we realize the importance of adopting the solar technology. The world around us is extensively promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle. The best way to go green is to install solar technology at your home.
Lamppost and solar panel