For the consumer, the most important difference between the different Solar Panel technologies is their price and there performance. Performance is measured in the amount of electricity produced per square foot of panel. However, the best performance does not always equate with the greatest value, or the most electricity for each dollar spent.
Monocyrstaline solar cells are produced from single crystal silicon. They are the most efficient solar cells on the market, producing more power per unit of area. This makes them appealing to crowded urban areas where space may be limited.
Multicrystaline cells are not as efficient in converting sunlight to electricity, but they are nearly as durable and long lasting as monocrystaline cells. The raw material costs of multicrystaline silicon has fallen away sharply in the last few years, a savings that the manufacturers are happy to pass along. At present, multicrystaline technology seems to have the best balance of price and performance
Thin film panels are made with a soup of various metals deposited in a very thin layer over the substrate. Because they do not depend upon crystaline silicon, the have traditionally been the cheapest per kilowatt output panels to produce. The recent drop in multicrystaline cells have hurt thin films market share. Thin film performs well in a variety of lighting conditions, making them attractive in cloudy areas. However, the performance of thin film degrades over time in comparison to silicon based cells.