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Solar modules

Solar modules transform light in to electrical energy. They are made up of individual solar cells that release energy when exposed to light. This photovoltaic process is based on a special material that is present in almost all solar cells: silicon a semiconductor with natural electrical properties. 


Silicon is the most prevalent element on Earth after oxygen which makes it a very inexpensive and nearly inexhaustible natural resource. In order to make use of it for photovoltaic purposes though, a complicated, multi-step process is necessary. Simple silica sand is transformed into pure crystalline silicon. There are several types, depending on the crystal structure and production method:


  • Monocrystalline solar cells
  • Polycrystalline solar cells
  • Thin film solar cells
Technical information: >>> DOWNLOAD (pdf.)

Monocrystalline solar cells are black or dark blue in color. They are made up of just one crystal and have the highest efficiency factor of all silicon cells. They are preferred in situations where available surface area is limited. Their lifespan is at least 20 years. 


Polycrystalline or multi-crystalline solar cells have a blue surface. Their crystal structure is only partially ordered giving them less voltage which means a somewhat lower efficiency factor. Polycrystalline cells are easier to manufacture, cheaper to produce and are the most used technology in the photovoltaic sector. 


Thin film modules are dark red or dark brown in color. They are made up of a thin, amorphous silicon layer. Thanks to their low material consumption and low price, they are prized in projects where large surfaces are to be covered. They have a low efficiency factor in bright sunlight, but they offer many advantages in low light and diffuse light as well as in higher temperature climates.


How light and temperature influence performance

The higher the exposure to sunlight, the more voltage is released in the solar cells, and the higher the performance of the photovoltaic installation. In the morning and evening as well as in fog or under thick cloud cover, performance is lower but photovoltaic installations still produce electricity in diffuse light. 


The lower the temperature, the higher the voltage released in the solar cells and the higher the electricity generation. It may seem counterintuitive, but solar modules function better in colder weather than in blazing heat. A good ventilation of solar modules lowers their core temperature and increases their performance. 

How the performance of solar modules is measured

When solar modules perform at their best it is called peak performance and denoted with a small “p” behind the kilowatt measurement: kWp. This value indicates the performance of a solar module under full sun exposure and in defined testing conditions. 


Peak performance is often called effective output. It is based on measurements taken under optimal conditions. Generally the actual performance in practical application is 15-20% lower.


Generating cleaner energy through recycling

Modules are constructed with materials that could be reused for new solar modules or new products. Through recycling, the valuable materials, like glass, aluminum and silicon materials can be preserved, leading to less waste and less energy used in module production. Both of these contribute to a positive environmental balance. This decreases not only the carbon dioxide emissions, but the overall costs as well. Thus, the modules generate not only renewable energy, but are also sustainable resources after they have reached the end of their life cycle. IBC SOLAR has become a member of the European “PV CYCLE Association”, to support the recycling of photovoltaic modules. PV CYCLE is currently setting up collection points all over Europe, where installers and citizens can deliver their worn-out modules.

Additional Information


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