Solar Power devices harness the energy from sunlight and convert it into electricity. They are therefore ideal for use in locations where electricity is not available - such as when camping - or simply as an enviromentally friendly thing to do!
There are two main types of solar photo-voltaic (PV) panel – thin film and crystalline.
Thin film (or "amorphous") panels are produced by spraying a fine layer of semiconductor material on to a surface – in a similar way to the silvering on the back of a mirror. In the past, thin film panels didn't last as long as crystalline ones - around ten years. Technological advances mean that more modern panels can run successfully for 20 years or more, almost as long asf crystalline panels. Thin film panels are also, in general, significantly cheaper than crystalline ones, but the downside is that they’re also less efficient so you’ll need a larger panel area to give the same power output as a crystalline panel.
Crystalline panels come in two forms - mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline. Each module in a mono-crystalline panel is formed from a single silicon crystal. These are the most efficient panels on the market, but also the most expensive. They will also give you the most power per unit area of panel.
Most crystalline PV panels on the market today are poly-crystalline. They are made of many small crystals squeezed together. These are less efficient so you’ll need a larger poly-crystalline panel to get the same power as a mono one. If you're choosing panels simply to top up a battery for use with an RV or on occasional camping trips the difference is minimal, though it’s something to take into account if you’re planning on installing a system at home.