When looking around online and deciding on the next steps in going solar there seems to be an endless supply of flexible panels to choose from. Whilst they may have the same power rating (eg. 100 watt) there are likely to be some fundamental differences that set SunPower® flexible solar panels apart from the rest.
SunPower has been leading the solar industry since it was founded in 1985. Continually innovating their products they have developed the Maxeon™ solar cell which is found in all of their solar panels (including the flexible panels). This cell is fundamentally different to every other manufacturer's and is the foundation for what makes a great solar panel.
With the help of the solar cell comparison image below we can look at what sets the Maxeon™ cell apart from the rest:
*The image above shows the front side of two polycrystalline cells (left) easily identified by their blue almost marble-like appearance & thin metal lines pasted on the front (active solar surface). The monocrystaline SunPower Maxeon™ cells (right) are easily identified by the solid deep blue colour & lack of metal on the front.
*The image above shows the back of two polycryastalline cells (left) with a thin aluminum back and thin metal interconnect ribbons. The back of the monocrystaline SunPower Maxeon™ cells (right) have a thick solid copper foundation across the whole of the cell with robust interconnect tabs that connect in 3 places (for redundancy) and allow for expansion/contraction.
- The SunPower Maxeon™ cell design is more robust against real world stresses. Solar cells are susceptible to moisture and humidity but with a thick copper foundation at the back of the SunPower cell it is protected and almost impervious to the moisture and humidity. The poly cell however with thin silver lines pasted on the front is porous and much more susceptible to corrosion.
- Every panel goes through large temperature changes (thermal cycling) from daytime to night. The thick copper foundation on a SunPower cell is at the back; shaded and much cooler than the metal lines on the front of the poly cell. Here the thin metal ribbons expand and contract each cycle and overtime this will lead to breakage.
- The copper foundation also has the benefit of making full contact with the back of the silicon which gives the cell more strength and allows for a thinner layer of silicon.
- High end anti-reflective coating allows more sunlight into the SunPower cell at low sun angles during partial shading and low light times of day.
- SunPower cells do not suffer from Light Induced Degradation (LID) as they are made from a different type of silicon. LID will typically reduce a brand new panel's efficiency by 1-3% within the first few days of being exposed to sunlight for the first time.
- All of the above (and more) helps give the SunPower Gen II cell, found in the 50W and 100W panels, its' high efficiency of 23% compared to a conventional panel of around 14%.
Watch the SunPower video below for a great visual on the cell comparisons. These cells are found in SunPower's residential & commercial panels and now the SunPower® flexible solar panels.
In conclusion there are many reasons that set the SunPower Maxeon™ cell apart and help eliminate 85% of the reasons why conventional solar cells fail (corrosion and breakage). It's easy to see how SunPower isn't just different, it's better. Make sure you look for the SunPower® logo on your next flexible solar panel...