How much does it cost to install thin film solar panels?
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Thin Film Solar Panels Cost Guide
Updated: August 18, 2022
Thin film solar panels offer a reasonable cost alternative to crystalline options. These solar systems are thin, flexible, and more efficient in low-light areas than traditional monocrystalline panels. They are also easy to install and can have a lower profile than other solar system types.
There are three main types of thin film panels in use today, each with different attributes and costs. This, combined with the fact that most people need multiple panels to meet their needs, can lead to a wide cost range. The national average cost for installing thin film solar panels is $3,000 to $7,000, with most people paying around $5,000 for 10 installed amorphous silicon panels. This project’s low cost is $2,500 to install 10 cadmium telluride panels. The high cost is $8,800 for 10 installed CIGS panels.
Thin Film Solar Panel Cost Calculator
Thin film solar panels are made differently than other types. They do not use crystals to capture and convert energy. Instead, they use one of a few different systems. There are three basic types in residential use today - cadmium telluride, amorphous silicon, and copper indium gallium telluride. Cadmium telluride is the cheapest and most widely available. Amorphous silicon or a-Si is more efficient than cadmium telluride and better for the environment. Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) is the most efficient but costs the most. These panels come in a range of watts like other types. Most homes need between 3,000 and 5,000 kW, so the following costs are for 10 panels for the three solar film types.
Thin Film Solar Panels Price per Watt
Thin film solar panels have an average cost of between $0.50 and $1 a watt for the materials. Installation has additional costs of between $0.50 and $1.20 a watt. Most panels have between 250 and 400 watts each, with most homes requiring between 3,000 kW and 5,000 kW to meet their needs.
In addition to the solar film, these systems need more components to function. Depending on the wattage and system type, this can add another $400 to $3,000 to your total costs.
Thin Film Solar Cells: Advantages and Disadvantages
Like other solar cell types, thin film has pros and cons. The first is the varying types. Cadmium telluride makes up roughly 50% of all solar film but is highly toxic. It is difficult to work with and not very environmentally friendly. It is also not as efficient as crystal cells. However, it is one of the least expensive solar cell types on the market.
A-Si is more efficient and better for the environment than cadmium telluride. It is still not as efficient as other silicon panel types, including monocrystalline and polycrystalline. It is a good moderate choice for those who want to save money.
CIGS is the most expensive solar film type, approaching the costs of crystalline panels in price. It is the most efficient of the three types and approaches monocrystalline in efficiency and costs. However, most types of thin film sold for residential use only have efficiencies in the 8% to 13% range, although it is possible to reach higher efficiency with CIGS.
All three types have a sleek black surface and can be much thinner and lower in profile than other solar panels. They are flexible and can be installed in more areas, including low-light areas where they may perform better than other types. This makes them popular in numerous areas.
All thin film solar panel types degrade faster than crystalline panels. They may not last as long, although their lower costs may help offset this.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Usage. Thin film solar cells can be used in residential settings, but some are exclusively used in industrial areas due to their lower efficiencies.
- Maintenance. Like other solar panels, thin film is fairly low maintenance. Clear debris off the panels as needed to help them stay efficient. Have the entire system serviced regularly to keep it running at optimal efficiency.
- Inverter. Your system will need an inverter to work, with most systems using one per panel. Expect this to add between $400 and $3,000 to your system costs.
- Accreditation. Check if your contractor has accreditation from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). The NABCEP guarantees all members have adequate knowledge and experience for solar panel service, installation, and maintenance.
- Bids. Get a minimum of 3 bids from 3 different companies before choosing one. Ask each company to tell you the number of watts per panel, the cost per watt, and if they include all parts for the installation. Get references from each to compare.
- Permits. In most areas, you need a permit to have a solar system installed. Check with your contractor and local municipality for more information.
- Rebates. Many states have rebates available to help offset the cost of solar installations. There may also be additional federal tax credits available. Check with your municipality and accountant for more information.
- What advantages do thin film solar cells have over traditional solar cells?
The biggest advantage is the panel thinness. It is sleek, black, and subtle in appearance, so it has improved curb appeal. They are also flexible and can work better in low-light areas.
- What is the efficiency of thin film solar cells?
Typical efficiency ranges from 8% to 13%, but some types like CIGS can achieve efficiency above 20%.
- How much do thin film solar panels cost?
The average cost range for 10 panels is $3,000 to $7,000 installed.
- What are the disadvantages of thin film solar cells?
Thin film solar cells are not as efficient as crystalline systems. Many of them also contain toxic chemicals, making them hazardous to the environment.