Blue vs Black Solar Panels: Which is Better?

By now you must have come across both blue and black solar panels before. Especially if you live in a suburb where solar installations are popular.

The question is, what are the differences between the two colors, is one more efficient than the other, do they cost the same amount, and what are people's preferences?

In this article, we will talk a bit about why solar panels come in both blue and black colors and why they differ from one another.

Let's get started.

What are black solar panels? 

black solar panels on the roof

More often than not, when you see a home equipped with black solar panels, what you are likely looking at, are monocrystalline solar panels. 

Monocrystalline is also known in short as mono c-Si or mono-Si. It is in fact the base material for silicon-based discrete components and integrated circuits.

However, the material is now more commonly known due to its role in serving as a light-absorbing material in the manufacture of solar cells.

Pros of black solar panels

1. Higher efficiency

Monocrystalline solar panels or "black solar panels" have a higher efficiency than their blue solar panel sister. The reason for this is that they lack recombination sites in the single crystal and absorb photons better due to their black color. 

2. More space efficient 

Because of their increased efficiency, black solar panels are capable of producing more electricity per square foot. Meaning, you would require a smaller monocrystalline solar system to produce the same amount of energy as a larger polycrystalline (blue) solar system.

3. Performance in low light conditions 

Once again, thanks to its increased efficiency, black solar panels are better equipped for low light conditions. Through the photovoltaic effect, they are able to transform solar irradiance into electricity at a greater efficiency. So, if you stay in an area with lots of overcast weather, black solar panels are your best bet. 

Cons of black solar panels

1. Expensive

The manufacturing process of black solar panels is fairly complex in comparison to their blue cousins. Additionally, monocrystalline panels consists only of exceedingly pure silicon. Both these factors result in a more expensive product.

2. Waste material

When compared to polycrystalline panels, black solar panels produce more waste material during manufacturing. The process results in a lot of leftover material which is not used to create PV cells. This material is either discarded (not eco-friendly) or recycled. 

What are blue solar panels?

blue solar panels on the roof

Blue solar panels are more commonly known as polycrystalline solar panels. Other names include multicrystalline silicon, polysilicon and poly-Si. 

When looking at blue solar panels you may notice a metal flake effect. This is because polysilicon panels consist of small crystals.

Pros of blue solar panels

1. Cheaper Cost

Perhaps the most prominent reason for home owners deciding to buy blue solar panels comes down to cost. As simple as that. Blue solar panels cost less. According to Forbes, blue solar panels would cost between $0.90 to $1 per watt while black solar panels would cost between $1 to $1.50 per watt. This may not seem like much of a difference at first but we will show you a comparative example a tad later. 

2. Less waste material 

According to Wikipedia: "Polysilicon is produced from metallurgical grade silicon by a chemical purification process, called the Siemens process. This process involves distillation of volatile silicon compounds, and their decomposition into silicon at high temperatures". This process produces much less waste material in comparison to the production of monocrystalline solar panels.  

Cons of blue solar panels

1. Lower efficiency

Unfortunately, blue solar panels tend to have a lower efficiency when compared to black panels. On average you are working with average efficiency rates of between 13 - 16%. 

2. Less space efficient

The next downside is once again thanks to the lower efficiencies. A polycrystalline solar system of say 10 kW will produce less electricity than a monocrystalline solar system of 10 kW. In order to make up for this efficiency loss, more solar panels will need to be installed, thus taking up more space on your roof. 

3. Lower purity

Blue solar panels consist of small crystals, also known as crystallites. These crystallites give the panel a sort of metal flake look. From afar this does not look like much, but up close at the right angle this can look somewhat "tacky" to some.

Blue vs black solar panels: Which is best for your home? 

The big question that everyone wants to know. Which type of solar panel is best for your home? 

To answer this question we are going to put the two types against one another and let you decide. 

For our example we will assume you live in California and are thinking about buying either a 10kW blue solar system or 10kW black solar system. 

10 kW Monocrystalline System (Blue)
10 kW Monocrystalline System (Black)
Cost $9,000 $15,000
Yearly energy kWh
15,301 kWh
16,247 kWh
Lifespan 20 - 25 years 25 - 50 years

Final thoughts

We hope this article shed some more light on the two types of solar panel technologies.

At the time of writing polycrystalline solar panels still lead the market. However, monocrystalline panels are becoming more and more popular and will soon take over the market. 

What we need to do however, is establish proper recycling methods for black solar panels.

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