How does half-cut solar cell technology work?

High-efficiency half-cell solar panel

In every aspect of a typical solar installation, solar technology is improving. We will discuss half-cut solar cells in this article, a variation of standard silicon solar cells that can help improve the performance of solar panels.

Half-cut solar cells: what are they?

A half-cut cell can boost the power output of solar panels just as bifacial solar panels and PERC solar cells boost the efficiency of silicon solar panels. Solar cells that have been cut in half using a laser cutter are known as half-cut solar cells.

The advantages of half-cut solar cells over traditional solar cells are numerous. The most important benefit of half-cut solar cells is that they offer improved performance and durability. The efficiency of panels can be increased by a few percentage points by using half-cut cells. Half-cut cells are also more physically durable than their traditional counterparts since they’re smaller in size and less likely to crack as a result of their smaller size.

Half-cut solar cells provide property owners installing solar energy systems with a faster payback period as a result of these advantages. A solar panel installation can be made even more worthwhile by incorporating half-cut cells, especially where shading and limited space are factors.

What is the working principle of half-cut solar cells?

As a result of half-cut solar cell technology, solar panels produce more energy because more cells can fit on a panel. After splitting the panel in half, the top and bottom operate independently, so even if one side is shaded, more energy is generated.

Here’s an overview of the process – we break it down below.

If monocrystalline solar panels are cut in half, they have twice as many cells as traditional monocrystalline solar panels. PERC technology is used in half-cut panels, which offer higher module efficiency with 120 to 144 cells.

Cells are delicately cut in half using a laser. The current within these cells is also halved when the cells are cut in half, which reduces the resistive losses from traveling energy via current, which, in turn, helps the cells perform better.

The cut-in-half and reduced size of the solar cells mean that the panels have more cells than traditional panels. In this way, even if one-half of the panel is shaded, the top and bottom portions still generate energy.

Half-cut cell design relies on a different method of “series wiring” for the panel, which involves wiring solar cells together and passing electricity through a bypass diode within a panel. Located in the junction box, the bypass diode transports electricity generated by the cells.

The entire row of cells that are within the series wiring of a traditional panel will stop producing power if one cell is shaded or faulty.

Here’s an example of the traditional 3-string series wiring:

Solar cells in Row 1 won’t produce energy if they don’t receive adequate sunlight when constructed using the traditional full-cell string series wiring. The panel is knocked out in one-third.

It works differently with a half-cut, 6-string solar panel:

In Row 1, if a solar cell is shaded, no power will be produced by the cells within that row. Because only one-sixth of the panel has stopped producing power, instead of one-third as is the case with a traditional series wiring, row 4 will continue generating power, thus generating more energy.
In addition, the panel itself is divided in half, so there are six cell groups in total rather than three. In contrast to the traditional wiring above, the bypass diode is connected in the middle of the panel.

What are the advantages of half-cut cells?

Numerous benefits can be gained from using half-cut cell panels.

As a result of their unique wiring system, they improve the performance and power output of solar modules. Therefore, you will not have to worry about your entire solar panel being inaccessible if there are trees cast shade over your roof during certain times of the day.

Furthermore, they produce more power per square foot than traditional panels because they come with a higher wattage, often up to 380 watts for the REC Alpha, compared to 250 watts for traditional panels.

In addition, half-cut solar cells are less affected by hot spots. Excess heat transfers from a hot area to a shaded, cooler area of a panel in the form of hot spots. Half-cut cells reduce the likelihood of hot spots because there are more cells to distribute the excess heat.

The internal resistance of half-cut cells is also reduced, which reduces power loss suffered by traditional panels. By nature, energy travels through an electric panel in series, resulting in internal resistance. However, since the solar cells are half-cut, fewer currents are generated, resulting in fewer resistance losses.

In spite of their many advantages, half-cut cells are more expensive due to their more complicated manufacturing process, which involves increased soldering steps and laser cutting. The ultimate decision is yours regarding whether the increased cost is justified by the overall benefits.  

What is the future of solar panels? Will half-cut panels replace full-cut panels?

Solar panels with half-cut cells boost their energy yield much more than panels with regular cells, but they are a little more difficult to make. Traditional manufacturers have a hard time switching to producing half-cell solar modules because it isn’t as simple as adding half-cut cells to a production line.

It is still possible for traditional solar panels to work for you in many cases, such as if your roof receives a lot of sunlight in the daily cycle.

A half-cut solar panel makes sense if you live in a shady area or ensure that you maximize your net metering benefits. You should consider half-cut cells if your surface area is small and needs to generate as much solar energy as possible. Otherwise, you should be fine with traditional solar panels, even if you have to add a few more.

Perhaps when the manufacturing of half-cut cells becomes more streamlined and easier to adopt, they will become cheaper and more widespread. The solar installer will be able to help you determine whether half-cut cells will work best for your rooftop solar system.

Thanks for reading.

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