They may look like they are made entirely of photovoltaic (PV) wafers, but solar panels feature many different parts. Manufacturers must carefully construct solar panels with these parts to ensure that they operate as intended. You can expect to find the following parts in a typical solar panel.
The Glass Outer Layer
Solar panels feature a glass outer layer. Typically consisting of tempered glass, it’s found on the top of solar panels.
Tempered glass is transparent, so light can pass through it. At the same time, it offers a physical barrier of protection over the solar cells. The layer of tempered glass will protect the underlying solar cells from rain, hail, wind and other forms of environmental damage.
All solar panels have a frame. It’s a square- or rectangular-shaped casing that holds all of the other parts together.
Most solar panels feature an aluminum frame. Aluminum frames are lightweight, resistant to corrosion and relatively strong. They can also be powder coated or anodized. When powder coated or anodized, aluminum frames are better protected against environmental damage.
The Solar Cells
The solar cells are the PV wafers in the middle of solar panels. They allow solar panels to generate electricity when exposed to sunlight. Solar cells are made of a PV material, such as silicon. As sunlight strikes them, it will release some of the electrons from the solar cells.
Some solar panels use polycrystalline solar cells, whereas others use monocrystalline solar cells. Polycrystalline and monocrystalline are the two most common types of solar cells. They both work by generating electricity in response to sunlight. The difference is that polycrystalline solar cells are made of multiple silicon crystals, while monocrystalline solar cells are made of a single silicon crystal.
The backing is exactly what it sounds like: a back layer. You won’t see the backing after installing a solar panel. As the back layer, it’s located under the solar cells, meaning it will be concealed. Nonetheless, the backing is an important part of a solar panel, as it protects the solar cells from damage.
The backing is typically made of a polymer material. It shields the solar cells while enclosing the frame.
Solar panels are made of several different parts. They feature a top layer made of temperated glass, a frame made of powder-coated or anodized aluminum, solar cells made of a PV material and a backing made of a polymer material.