Solar Panel Materials.
Solar panels utilizing the Photovoltaic process for solar energy collection can be made from several different semiconductor materials. Devices commercialized for terrestrial use (meaning on Earth's surface as opposed to space based devices) are Silicon (Si), Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide (CIGS) and Cadmium Telluride (CdTe).
Si devices have been around since the 1950s. CIGS and CdTe are relatively newer developments in the search for less costly alternatives. At present, CIGS appears to be the primary candidate to challenge Si's dominance.
Silicon solar panels on an education institute.
Most established and available technology.
Highest power collection over a fixed area.
14%-20% of solar power striking a surface can be collected.
Currently provides the lowest cost for each watt of power harvested, after installation.
CIGS solar panels on an industrial building.
Thin film technology that allows a smaller amount of semiconductor material to be used.
Provides opportunity to produce low cost solar panels.
9%-13% of solar power striking a surface can be collected.
Has yet to provide the expected lowest cost for each watt of power harvested, after installation.
Offers potential for further development and improvement.