Solar Panel

What You Need to Know About Thin Film Modules

What You Need to Know About Thin Film Modules 1

What You Need to Know About Thin Film Modules

What are the distinctive characteristics of thin film modules? When is it advantageous, to use thin film modules in a solar PV system? Which advantages and disadvantages have thin film technology?

Thin film solar panels belong to the so-called amorphous module types. They are usually smaller than the crystalline modules and have a homogenous surface with dark green, brownish or black coloring.

Due to the resources used and its automatic production, thin film modules are cheaper, but they have a lower level of efficiency.

Technical features of thin film solar panels

What You Need to Know About Thin Film Modules 3

Thin film solar panels consist of amorphous solar cells. They are characterized by a simple production process, low weight, and flexibility of use.

However, they have the least efficiency compared to the available solar modules on the market. Therefore, they are less powerful than silicon solar panels. For this, they are much less expensive. Therefore, thin film modules are particularly suitable for use in large and flat areas.

They can also be used in diffused or weak lighting conditions, and they are less heat-sensitive. Thin film solar panels have a typically intense initial degradation, which is considered by the manufacturers by the display of its performance.

Advantages and disadvantages of thin film solar panels

Cheap Lower efficiency
Simple production process Intense initial degradation
Less material consumptionThe installation is difficult, due to missing frames
Very lightweightLess stable
Are suitable for use in diffuse und weak lighting conditions and large surfacesShorter lifetime
Temperature-resistantHigher space requirement, to achieve the same performance like the crystalline modules
Less susceptive to dirt (frameless)

Due to their simple manufacturing process and low resource costs, amorphous solar modules are very cheaper than crystalline solar modules. However, its efficiency level is much lower and therefore also the achieved electricity yield.

Its efficiency is between 6 and 10%. This means, to achieve the same performance as the crystalline modules, a comparatively large area of thin film modules is needed. Therefore they are ideally suitable for use in large open spaces.

Temperature and light behavior of thin film modules

Although thin film modules react to changes in temperatures, they react less strongly than crystalline modules.

They can also produce constant solar yield at comparatively high temperatures, as they are less sensitive to changes in lighting conditions and can also affect the same performance in weak or diffuse lighting conditions.

Therefore, thin film solar panels can also be installed in areas, which are not oriented directly towards the south. As well they are suitable for PV mounting on flat roofs and on very large solar PV systems,  in which very many solar modules can be installed.

Installation and maintenance of thin film modules

Compared to the crystalline modules thin film solar panels are very lightweight. They have a smaller thickness.

They are often produced without a frame, which has a positive effect on their weight, at the same time they are harder to mount and less stable, but without frames, they are easy to clean, the advantage of this is low maintenance costs.

Aging and degradation of thin film solar panels

The degradation is the process, which causes a reduction in the performance of the solar modules. There are three types of degradation: initial degradation (also called light-induced degradation), potential-induced degradation, and age-related degradation.

  • Especially light-induced degradation which occurs mainly in thin film solar panels. However, manufacturers of thin-film modules calculate this initial degradation by an indication of the nominal output of modules.
  • Thin film modules are more susceptible to age-related degradation compared to crystalline Therefore, they are less resistant to aging and have a shorter lifetime. As a result, manufacturers give this module shorter guarantees.
  • Potential-induced degradation and Light-induced degradation occur only once but can affect all types of modules in equal measure.

Summary and outlook for thin film solar


Compared to crystalline modules thin film modules are less powerful, have a shorter lifetime, and are more vulnerable to environmental impacts.

However, the advantages lie in its low weight, flexible applications, and suitability for areas that are not south-orientated, and are used in diffused and weak lighting conditions.

The market share of thin film solar panels has risen continuously over the past few years. Also, they should be used in the future for many other applications.

Due to its low weight and flexible scope of its design, by using different carrier materials, thin film technology is suitable for further use, for example, in clothing and bags.

To know more about the most important differences between monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film solar panels see this article.

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