Understanding the Different Types of Solar Panels and Battery Storage Options

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Types of solar panels & batteries

With the world moving towards a greener tomorrow, solar panels and battery storage options have become a hot topic for discussion. Several companies are investing in large-scale solar panel hardware to facilitate the growing demand for these technologies.

However, with so many options in the market, which one should you go for?

Solar panels have been around for quite some time, and although they initially boasted exorbitant prices, the technology has become quite accessible due to growing industry competition, economies of scale, and advances in solar technology.

For comparison, in 1975, the first solar panels cost about $115.3 per watt and although it was touted as the next big thing since the grid, it proved to be too costly for the average homeowner – but that didn’t stop industrialists and engineers in pushing the technology forward!

By 2010, this price was already $2.15 per watt, and by 2021 the price touched a low of around $0.27 per watt. By 2025 and beyond, we are likely to see a decrease in the average pricing due to progress in battery and solar panel technology.

So, now is a good time as any to invest in solar systems! In this guide, we will discuss the different types of solar panels and battery storage options and some tips on how to maximise your solar setup.


You may think of solar panels as a recent invention, but the fact is that this technology has existed in some form or the other for decades.

Remember the old pocket calculators with an indent section on the top right or left side? That indent housed a strip of thin photovoltaic film that was put in place to power the calculator using solar energy in case the battery died!

Similarly, solar panels, AKA, photovoltaics (PVs) were present in other hardware as well, but the idea truly took off when scientists and engineers married the idea of battery technology and solar panels.

See, solar panels, on their own, work simply. Made from several layered cells of semi-conducting material, typically silicon, they collect photons from the sun and convert solar energy into electrical energy. This energy can then be used to power anything, just like you would from energy taken from the grid.

However, by effectively storing this energy, we unlocked the practical applications of solar power! We’ll discuss battery tech in a minute, let’s first focus on the panels.

Solar energy is nigh-permeant, and the panels are designed to collect indirect light even though brighter sunlight will always result in more power. The stronger and brighter the sunlight is, the more electricity will be produced.

A typical solar panel system consists of several panels, with each panel generating a certain amount of energy, which is measured in watts (W). The panels generate direct current (DC) electricity, which is converted into alternating current (AC) electricity using an inverter. The resultant AC electricity can be used to power your property, saved for later use, or sent back to the grid (net metering).

There are many benefits of investing in solar panels including:

  • Lower energy costs – generating electricity using the sun essentially means that you will be using less energy from the grid. This will result in lower electricity costs. You can also sell excess stored energy back to the grid, a process called net metering, and make additional money that is credited to your electricity bill. Please contact a professional electrical company like Calder Electrical to know how you can enable and manage net metering.
  • Reduced carbon footprint – Solar energy is good for the environment. Compared to other energy sources, solar energy has a lower impact and can significantly lower your carbon footprint. Solar panels are also noiseless, making them perfect for residential settings and urban areas. A typical home solar PV system in the UK could reduce carbon emissions by around 1 tonne every year.
  • High energy production during peak hours – In the UK, electricity peak hours are around 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., which means that electricity consumed during these hours typically costs more. However, by installing solar panels you can significantly offset the higher tariff. Peak hours are usually set during daylight to incentivise the use of solar technology.
  • Low maintenance costs – solar panels are straightforward and can last a long time. Typically, panels come with a 20-to-25-year guarantee and only require cleaning to maximise solar exposure. The only thing that needs complete replacement is the battery and the inverter but even these replacements are relatively low cost. The main components, which are the panels, only require a quick clean, and if it rains, then the panels will practically clean themselves.
  • Solar energy is versatile – All you need is a bit of sunshine! Solar panels can be installed anywhere the sun shines which makes them very versatile. This is particularly useful for remote areas with no access to electricity from the grid. Solar PV systems can benefit such areas and improve the lives of people who don’t have access to electricity.


There are three primary types of solar panels:

Monocrystalline solar panels

These panels are made from a single-crystal silicone. The panels are created by forming these crystals into a single bar which is then used to cut wafers. These wafers are then used to make the individual solar cells in the panel.

These panels have a uniform black colour which maximises sunlight absorption and are often considered the most effective design for capturing sunlight in the context of electricity per square foot of space.

These panels have a higher efficiency rate and provide better overall performance even in low-light or indirect-light conditions. However, the drawback of these panels is that they are consistently one of the most expensive types of panels in the game costing between £1,000 and £1,500 per kilowatt (kW).

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

These panels are made from silicon crystals that are heated and melted together. The resulting mixture is formed into ingots that are carefully sliced to form wafers. These wafers are then combined to form a solar cell.

Polycrystalline solar panels have a distinctive blue speckled appearance giving them a nonuniform look compared to monocrystalline panels. While these panels provide great efficiency, they are less efficient when compared to monocrystalline panels, thus making them less costly as well.

However, if you are on a budget, then monocrystalline panels are the go-to option because they provide well-balanced performance at a relatively low cost.

Thin Solar Panels

Thin Solar Panels also known as Thin-Films are made by depositing very thin layers of photovoltaic material onto a surface such as glass, plastic, or even metal. The resulting sheet gains photovoltaic properties and can be used to capture photos just as the other panels mentioned above.

As you can imagine, the deposition of photovoltaic material on a substrate offers less efficiency than solar cells made from pure mono or polycrystalline silicone. However, the benefit of these panels is that they are usually very durable and can even be applied on curved surfaces making them an excellent choice for people with limited space.

These panels use a variety of photovoltaic materials like amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

The material used for the panels usually defines its efficiency. In most cases, this is going to be the cheapest solar panel option, but you will often require more panels to get the same output as pure mono or polycrystalline panels due to their low efficiency.


Solar batteries are on the other side of the coin. Batteries are required to capture, store, and manage solar energy so that it can be dispersed as needed. In most cases, you will be using a series of batteries that can store huge loads.

However, unlike regular batteries that simply hold energy, solar batteries are designed to be smart so that they can make the most out of the solar energy captured in a day.

To explain solar batteries, we first need to understand their types. Solar batteries can be categorised into four types:

DC battery systems

DC (Direct Current) battery systems are directly connected to the solar panels and do not require an additional inverter since they are connected before the main grid meter.

While this makes the system more efficient and direct, it usually results in less optimised charging and discharging and could affect feed-in tariffs.

AC battery systems

Instead of being connected directly to the solar panels, AC (Alternating Current) battery systems are connected after the main grid meter.

These systems require an AC-to-DC inverter to first convert the electricity being generated into AC so that the energy is compatible with appliances.

As you can imagine, AC systems are costlier but don’t affect feed-in tariffs since the electricity meter registers the total output of the system.

Hybrid battery systems

Hybrid batteries combine DC and AC technology to provide the best of both worlds. Using this system, you can store power in the battery before it is converted into AC.

Hybrid battery systems are a great fit for both residential and commercial properties and are becoming more popular, especially now since they are managed using computational power and smart systems.

Smart Batteries

Smart solar batteries combine the benefit of computational power and battery technology.

These batteries are designed to think in terms of the best way to utilise solar energy throughout the day. For example, on a particularly clear and sunny day, the battery can decide to directly provide solar power to the electrical installation rather than taking it from the grid.

If the system detects a dip in the overall input, then it would shift to grid energy. Similarly, to protect the battery from overcharging, the system may progressively drain the battery using a battery-grid hybrid system and charge the battery optimally.

These batteries are costlier, but the benefit is that they provide quite a lot of control to the user. Furthermore, these batteries are usually connected using IoT technology which enables them to be accessed via the internet. Some systems can even combine artificial intelligence (AI) to further strengthen the charging algorithm of the solar panel system.


Solar battery chemistry can be categorised into two types:

  • Lead-Acid Batteries
  • Lithium-ion Batteries

Lead-acid batteries have been around for decades. These batteries are commonly found in cars, homes, offices, or any system that requires electricity storage. As the name suggests, these batteries store energy using lead and sulphuric acid.

Lead acid batteries are durable and can last about 4000 charge cycles. Meaning that they can be completely charged and discharged 4000 times before deteriorating. In many cases, lead acid batteries can quickly deteriorate and lose their ability to hold a charge. So, if you are looking for a long-term solution, you might want to invest in a lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-ion batteries are the same type of batteries found in phones, laptops, EVs, or virtually any modern device. These batteries are made using lithium and are excellent due to their compact size and performance.

These batteries have a longer lifespan and can provide 8000 charge cycles before deteriorating. Once they begin deteriorating, lithium-ion batteries can usually hold up to 80% of their original charge. However, they are slow to deteriorate and are great for compact spaces as well.


Regardless of their type, solar panel systems work in the same way. Here is how they typically work:

Step 1) Solar panels capture photons from sunlight and convert them into energy, which travels through wires to an inverter as direct current (DC). The inverter converts the current to alternating current (AC) so that it is compatible with appliances and devices in the home.

Step 2) Depending on the setup, the switchboard directs the energy into the home to power the appliances directly while the excess energy is stored in a battery inverter.

Step 3) The battery inverter converts the energy into storable energy to be used later.

Step 4) After sunset, the solar panels stop generating energy and the system switches to the stored battery energy.

Step 5) The stored energy is converted to AC using the battery inverter. The converted power is then provided to the electrical installation.

Step 6) The solar panel system will provide battery power as needed and once the battery is depleted, the system will switch to the grid and these steps will keep cycling every day.


Calder Electrical Services provides a wide range of solutions to help you play your part in making the world a more sustainable place.

If you wish to have solar panels installed on your residential or commercial property, our experts can conduct a site visit to determine your requirements and propose the best type of solar system for your needs.

We also offer solar battery storage installation so that you can minimise any wastage of the energy you create. This will help lower your energy bills and make you more independent from the grid.

We have been providing electrical services to residential, commercial, and industrial properties for over 40 years and are specialists in all aspects of electrical installations, maintenance, and testing.

All our work is fully insured and meets the current regulations and standards set by the NICEIC. Also, all the notifiable work is signed off by the local authorities.

Contact us here or call us at 0800 612 3001 to get in touch with our professional electricians for more information on the different types of solar panels and battery storage options.

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