Comparison of Crystalline and Thin-Film Solar Technologies in Cincinnati
Athens, Ohio— Alternative Energy Magazine, a web-based news source featuring inside knowledge of the renewable energy industry, has published a new study performed by project developers at Third Sun Solar. The study explores the comparative strengths of two competing solar panel technologies—crystalline and thin-film solar cells—mounted on the same rooftop.
A Need for Data
Solar project developers at Third Sun Solar saw a need for independently verifiable, real-world comparison studies of these two technology choices. They are seeking to gather data using these two technologies in specific projects types, such as ground mounted solar arrays, flat roofs, pitched roofs, shade impacted sites, and in different climatic regions.
An Opportunity to Showcase Two Technologies
The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati approached Third Sun Solar to provide approximately 30kW of solar for their new LEED Gold Certified Wastewater Engineering Building in Cincinnati. This project was planned for a flat roof designed to be regularly viewed by the public for its showcase energy and storm water management technologies. This working demonstration site offered an ideal spot to initiate a Midwest-specific study of the two solar technology types on a flat roof with excellent solar resource.
The study revealed that while both thin film and crystalline solar technologies provide reliable and impressive energy production performance, and both solar cell types perform best in cool temperatures and high sunlight, the “thin-film” amorphous silicon modules suffer lower performance losses during low light or high temperature operation. However, the performance impacts imposed by the different mounting requirements of each system more than offset this cell-type difference.
While reliable performance predictions can easily be obtained for crystalline silicon modules, the same is not true for the various thin film technologies in the marketplace today. Customers and solar developers are often left having to extrapolate from marketing claims and a small number of site-specific studies to make predictions about which is the best technology to use for a specific project. Factors such as differing orientation and attachment options, different area requirements, and differing technical limitations between crystalline and thin film technologies make the task of translating study results to real-world applications difficult. As a result, marketing claims from competing manufactures can obfuscate what should be a transparent comparison.
Third Sun Solar appreciates the full support for this project provided by the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, The City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County Ohio, Cintech Construction, and KZF Design.
FYI: AltEnergyMag is an excellent resource for those seeking a deeper understanding of alternative energy issues—including journalists and policy makers.