ZNShine SolarSolar panelsREC

Solar panel size range: From tiny to large

The market of solar panels is vast and newcomers are overwhelmed by all the shapes and sizes of PV modules. Which panel should you even choose, a big one or a tiny one? Is there such a thing as a standard solar panel size? Let’s find out!

Photoelements and portable solar panels

Photoelements on this cap can be used to charge a phone in the sunlight

If a solar panel is many solar cells in a frame with a glass cover, then the smallest solar panels available on the market aren’t really panels at all. They are more like separate cells or photoelements. You can find them on top of small gadgets or integrated into accessories, such as phone cases. They are small and usually provide only a few watts of power. Depending on wattage and efficiency, these panels come in a wide range of sizes and configurations.

Some are like larger home panels…

As wattage grows to, say, 30-50W, panels get larger and start to look like, well, panels. They are typically used for RVs, boats, or as a portable power source for hiking and other outdoor activities. They can charge your vehicle battery, GPS, flashlights, phone, and laptop, where you can upload photos of breathtaking landscapes taken with your camera, also charged by these panels.

Some look like a smaller copy of a typical home panel in a rigid aluminum frame. They can be foldable and you may put such a solar panel into a backpack. These rigid panels often have stands that allow you to easily install them on any flat surface. Here is an example: A 200W Renogy solar panel is about 40 by 20 inches in dimensions and weighs about 33 pounds.

…and some are nothing alike

Another popular type of solar panels for mobile installations are thin-film panels. They have no frame at all, they are very thin and light, and some even can be rolled up like a yoga mat. You can install them with the help of adhesives.

Here is an example: Yuma 100L from BougeRV. It’s 14 by 86 by 0.06 inches in dimensions, weighs only 4 pounds and it’s 360-degree flexible. This panel features copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells. CIGS panels are more expensive than standard thin-film panels but they are more durable and efficient. 

Home solar panels

As power and the size of solar panels grow, we get into the territory of home PV systems. People tend to install on their roofs panels that range from 300W to 500W in rated output.

Standard home solar panels usually have 60, 66 or 72 cells. Most contemporary panels feature half-cut cell design which leads to panels having 120, 132 and 144 half-cut cells. This design increases efficiency and shading tolerance but the size of modules doesn’t change.

If you want to picture the average size of a solar panel, imagine a bed. A 60/120-cell solar panel is usually about 66 inches tall and 40 inches wide, representing a 6×10 grid of solar cells. A 72/144-cell panel has two extra rows of cells, making it about a foot taller. The weight of one solar panel can vary from 40 to 60 pounds, depending on its size.

Size of your solar system depends on efficiency of your panels

So how many solar panels do I need to power a house and how big will this system be? An average American house needs a 7kW solar system to fully cover its energy needs, or from 12 to 20 panels. The exact number of panels may differ depending on the efficiency of modules you choose. Let’s compare two options: a REC 405W Pure Black and a ZNShine Solar 450W.

Out of stock

REC 405W Solar Panel 132 Cell REC405AA Pure Clearance

  • Rated Power Output 405 W
  • Voltage (VOC)48.9 V
  • Number of cells132
  • Cell TypeMonocrystalline

Delivery on Jun 25–28

REC 405W solar panel has 21.9% efficiency. If you choose it to build a 7kW solar system, we would need 18 panels. One PV module is 71.7 inches tall and 40 inches wide which means the size of one panel is 19.8 square feet. The whole system is going to take about 360 square feet to build.

(5.975 ft х 3.3 ft) х 18 panels = 358 sq ft

Out of stock

ZNShine Solar 450W Solar Panel 144 Cell ZXM6-NH144-450/M

  • Rated Power Output 450 W
  • Voltage (VOC)50.3
  • Number of cells144
  • Cell TypeMonocrystalline

Delivery on Jun 25–28

ZNShine Solar panel is more powerful but less efficient with only 20.7% conversion rate. We would need 16 panels for 7kW PV installation. This panel is a bit bigger – 6.9 feet tall and 3.4 feet wide. The whole system is going to occupy about 175 square feet.

(6.9 ft х 3.4 ft) х 16 panels = 375 sq ft

The difference is the size of one extra panel. Not too little but also not too much for you to worry about it unless you’re working with very little space.

As for weight, a system built with REC panels will weigh 810 pounds. A solar array of ZNShine Solar panels will be around 848 pounds. If you plan to install solar panels on your roof, the weight of your future solar system is of paramount importance. You must make sure that your roof can support it, especially if your house is not a new one. You don’t want your brand-new system to collapse on you right in the middle of dinner, do you?

Bottom line: if the roof space is a constraint or you’re not sure if your roof can support a big system, consider using more efficient panels.

Let us do the math for you

A1 SolarStore Calculator will help you figure out the approximate cost of your future system and the savings that it may bring.

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Commercial solar panels

Solar systems may appear complicated. First, you have to choose all these different elements and make sure they match. Then, the installation starts and it also can be stressful and time-consuming. Here is the good news: a system made of AC solar panels is much simpler. Well, is there any bad news? What are these ACpanels anyway? Let's find out.

Commercial solar systems vary in size and application. You can often see PV systems on top of hospitals, office buildings, and car parks that are rated for tens or hundreds of kilowatts of power. When it comes to solar farms, we are talking about megawatts.

One megawatt of solar power requires about 1,500-2,000 of panels and needs from 5 to 10 acres of land. It’s like two Walmart Supercenters put together. Built in a sunny place, a 1MW farm would produce about 5 megawatt-hours per day which would be enough for, say, 150 houses – a small village or a long city street.

For projects of a large scale, using weak PV modules is simply not reasonable. You would need many more panels, and the installation and maintenance of such a system would be much more complicated, not to mention the space required to deploy it.

Out of stock

JA Solar 535W Solar Panel 144 Cell Bifacial JA-JAM72-D30-535MB Wholesale

  • Rated Power Output 535 W
  • Voltage (VOC)49.45 V
  • Number of cells144
  • Cell TypeMonocrystalline

Delivery on Jun 25–28

The size of a commercial solar panel depends on its wattage and number of cells — these are 72/144-cell panels and larger. For instance, 144-cell 500W panels are about 40 × 90 inches and weigh almost 60 pounds. New panels are getting even more powerful and therefore larger. Chinese company JA Solar at one point announced an 800-watt Jumbo panel. It would be enormous – almost 90 inches high and 70 inches wide, weighing almost 96 pounds.

How big and how powerful the panels can really get?

Will solar panels get bigger and bigger in the future? Probably not. The Jumbo panel was not commercialized — it’s too huge to work with. Will solar panels become more powerful? Most definitely. Not through making them bigger but by increasing their efficiency.

Solar panel efficiency measures how much of the sunlight that strikes the panel’s surface is converted into usable electricity. A panel with 20% efficiency converts 20% of the sunlight it receives into electricity. 

Efficiency = [Power output / (Size x solar irradiance)] x 100%

1000 W/m²

standard solar irradiance in lab conditions (roughly equivalent to a sunny day)

For monocrystalline panels, the average efficiency ranges from 19% to 23% in lab conditions. Bifacial solar panels capture sunlight from both front and rear sides, reaching up to 30% production bonus and over 25% efficiency. Thin film solar panels convert only about 15-19% of sunlight. The expedition is CIGS thin-film panels that demonstrate efficiencies exceeding 20%.

Manufacturers are introducing other technologies to increase efficiency, such as half-cut and PERC solar cells, heterojunction technology, and many others we’ve described in our article. Yes, the efficiency of solar panels now reaches only 23%, but that means there is still 77% room for growth.

Years of experience in translation and a love of nature help Julia find the right words to encourage going solar. She joined the team in 2023 and is happy to make her contribution to a greener future.

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