Photovoltaic solar panels generate electricity. They have no moving parts, and 90% of them will still be functioning effectively after 30 years. Click here for information on the Feed in Tariff, for which photovoltaic systems are eligible.
There are several different types of photovoltaic panels.
These are the oldest type of PV solar panel. They are also the most expensive type per panel. However, they are also the most efficient in terms of electricity generated per unit of surface area of panel (not the most cost-efficient!).
Poly-crystalline panels are manufactured out of silicon, as are single-crystalline modules. However, poly-crystalline panels are made using a type of silicone with a different chemical structure, which is slightly cheaper to produce, at a very small loss in efficiency.
A new technique has recently started being used to create string ribbons solar modules. Whilst they are much cheaper to produce than single-crystalline or poly-crystalline, they are also quite a lot less efficient. This means that in order to generate the same amount of electricity, the typical string ribbon system is 30% larger in terms of surface area.
Whilst mono and poly-crystalline solar panels are manufactured with molded silicone, thin-film solar panels use a thin film of silicone, which is sprayed over their base. The production process to do this, is the cheapest for all types of solar-panel. This is also the newest solar panel technology available, so there is little in the way of research as to average efficiency losses over time. Finally, thin-film solar panels are also the least efficient solar panels, which is admittedly offset by their much lower price. On average, this means that a thin-film solar power system needs to be double the surface area of a mono-crystalline solar panel setup, in order to produce the same amount of electricity.