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Thin Film Solar Panels Efficiency and Cost

thin film solar panels

Today we want to explain the thin film solar panels matter with all details. If you are ready for it, let’s take a look to article.

Thin-film solar panels are, in contrast to crystalline solar panels, a relatively new types of solar panel. Modern production processes make it possible to produce solar cells that are 100 times thinner than conventional, crystalline solar cells.

Solar modules are divided into monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film modules depending on the type of solar cells used. They differ in terms of materials, production and efficiency.

Thin Film Solar Panels – Production and Materials

For thin film solar panels, a carrier material is coated with the semiconductor material. The semiconductor material used so far is primarily amorphous silicon. But other semiconductor materials are also used, such as cadmium telluride, CdTe, gallium arsenide, GaAs, or copper indium selenide, CuInSe2.

There are also thin film modules with microcrystalline silicon. Organic solar cells in which the absorber layer consists of a polymer also belong to the thin-film cells.

The production of thin film panels is relatively simple and much less expensive than monocrystalline or polycrystalline modules, because the wafer production is eliminated. The carrier is evaporated with a very thin layer of semiconductor material only a few microns thick. As a substrate next to glass or metal and flexible materials such as plastic in question, which widens the scope significantly.

Thin Film Solar Panels – Efficiencies

Efficiency of Thin Film Solar Panels

The efficiency of thin film solar panels is 5 to 10 percent and is therefore relatively low compared to other solar cell types. The efficiency of thin-film solar panels is significantly lower than that of monocrystalline or polycrystalline modules.

Average efficiencies of modules available on the market are between 5 and 10%. However, significantly higher efficiencies of up to 18% could be achieved in the laboratory. Degradation of thin-film modules is around 20 to 25% in the first 1,000 operating hours, but this is already taken into account in the manufacturer’s data on efficiency.


  • Inexpensive production
  • Low acquisition costs
  • Less raw material consumption
  • Low weight
  • High yield even for diffused light

No efficiency losses due to heat

Thin film solar panels have a number of advantages despite the lower efficiency. The low efficiency can be compensated by a correspondingly larger area. Especially the high photosensitivity even with a high proportion of diffuse radiation ensures high yield even in the winter months.

At the same time, thanks to the high-temperature resistance, the current yields of thin-film modules in summer remain high even at temperatures above 25 ° C.

Types of Thin Film Solar Panels

Thin film solar panels often consist of amorphous silicon. For the production of thin-film solar cells, however, other semiconductor materials can be used. Depending on which semiconductor materials are used, a distinction is made between the following common thin-film solar cells:

  • Amorphous amorphous silicon solar cells (a-Si)
  • Amorphous and microcrystalline silicon micromorph solar cells (a-Si / μc-Si)
  • Gallium arsenide (GaAs) solar cells
  • Solar cells from cadmium telluride (CdTe)
  • CIGS solar cells made of copper-indium-gallium-sulfur or copper-indium-gallium-selenium

Manufacturing of Thin Film Solar Panels

To support the wafer-thin layers of a thin film solar panel, a carrier material is first required. As the carrier material, various materials are suitable, e.g. Glass, metal or even a flexible plastic. A semiconductor material (e.g., amorphous silicon) is then vapor deposited or sprayed on the substrate in thin layers.

These semiconductor layers are so thin that only 50 to 100 superimposed layers would have the thickness of a human hair. This is for example advantageous if solar cells are to be applied to a garment or a backpack.


The color of a thin film solar panel depends on the semiconductor materials used. Amorphous solar cells are usually reddish brown to black. Cadmium telluride solar cells are greenish to black.

Costs of Thin Film Solar Panels

Since thin film solar panels are much thinner than conventional crystalline solar cells, much less material is needed in their manufacture. Thanks to the lower material usage, thin-film solar cells are cheaper to produce than crystalline solar cells.


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