You can buy solar panels in many different sizes that are designed for different purposes. There are panels that are designed to be used on houses, commercial buildings, caravans or smaller items such as for charging electrical items such as laptops and mobile phones.
Generally the larger the panel the more power it can produce, the power output rating is measured in watts. Solar panels designed for use on domestic properties tend to vary in size between 150 - 300 watts. The larger and of this scale are also used for commercial installations. The larger the panels are in terms of power output the more physically larger the panels tend to be. Manufacturers are always trying to increase the energy density of their panels, that is to say the that amount power measured in watts the panels can produce per metre squared (W/m²) is increased. The higher the W/m² of a panel the more electricity the homeowner can produce from the available space on their roof. Roof space tends to be the limiting factor for many domestic properties in the UK.
Solar panels are rectangular in shape, the panels themselves are referred to as modules and each module contains a series of connected solar cells. The solar cells can be thought of as mini solar panels in themselves, connected together they create a higher power output. The cells are then encapsulated in a weatherproof casing with a glass front panel to allow the light to hit the surface of the silicon cells.
Solar panels tend to be rectangular in shape as that is the most efficient and practical shape for the purpose. It allows for easier manufacture, easier handling and installation and makes it easier to fit the greatest amount of panels on any available roof space. Many of the reasons for the shape of the panels are the same for windows that tend to have similar sizes and aspects.
The size of a photovoltaic solar panel varies depending on the purpose the panel was designed for. Solar PV panels designed for use on domestic residential properties vary is size with length measurements of between 1000 - 2000mm and widths varying from 800 - 1000mm. The larger panels tend to have a larger power output due to there being a larger area of silicon.
The depth of panels tend to be between 35 - 50mm for standard home solar panels, solar PV-T panels and solar thermal panels tend to have a much thicker depth to them. Solar tiles that also produce electricity are slightly thinner at 30mm as they are designed to be used in place of roof tiles. There are newer type of photovoltaic technology that is much thinner although they are not currently used on homes due to their lower efficiency.
One concern some people have is that the weight of the solar panels will damage their roofs. Modern panels are comparatively light and can weigh as little as 15kg each. The general range of weights for solar panels for homes tends to be in the 15 - 23kg weight range.
Every panel has a power rating measured in watts; this is the maximum wattage the panel could produce. Panels tend to be in the 170 - 300 watt range as it is less cost effective to deal with smaller lower wattage panels. The watt rating means that if the panel receives enough sunlight this is how much electricity that it could produce. The actual useable amount will be lower as there are some system losses due to cabling resistance and inverters being less than 100% efficient.
Although the panels will produce the rated amount of power at any one time, a more useable figure is the kWh (kilowatt hour) rating over a year. This is how much electricity your panel or more usually your array of panels will produce over a whole year. You can read up about how much electricity solar panels produce to get a better idea of how much you can save on your electricity bill.
Most people will not be buying individual panels but a set of panels as part of a system. You can get generous solar panel grants that will cover the cost of installing solar panels on your home or business. If you are thinking of buying solar panels and claiming the government grants then you may be interested in how much solar panels cost.
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According to DECC figures a 2.5kWh solar PV system can provide half of homes yearly electricity requirements.
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