What Are Solar Panels Made Of?


If you’re considering buying solar panels, also called photovoltaics, you may want to know what materials go into making them. Photovoltaic manufacturing is surprisingly not that complicated, and they’re made mostly with relatively simple and non-toxic components.

You don’t have to worry about the carbon footprint or other environmental impacts of their manufacturing, and using them produces no carbon at all. Let’s take a closer look at what they’re made from.

So, What Are Solar Panels Made Of?

Solar panel manufacturing is a relatively simple process that uses some basic raw elements to create photovoltaic cells that convert the sun’s energy into electricity

Silicon Solar Cells

Silicon Solar Cells are made from silica, which is what most of our beach sand is made of. Sand is purified into 100% silica and then made into either polycrystalline or monocrystalline photovoltaic cells. These cells are made using a slightly different manufacturing process, and their price and conversion efficiency also vary. Monocrystalline panels are far more efficient and, thankfully, only slightly more expensive. 


The silicon cells are where the magic happens. Here, photons from the sun are captured in the silicon via the photovoltaic effect before being converted into electricity using silver as a conductor. 

Glass Sheets

Glass sheets encase the silicon cells, protect them from the elements, and are made using standard glass.

Bus Wires

Bus wires are thin soldered wires connecting the individual silicon cells in parallel to carry the electrical current they generate.

Junction Box

The junction box unit attaches to the back of the panels, protecting the wiring and keeping the electricity flowing in one direction from the panel to its inverter.


Metal Frame

The metal frames hold each module in place and protect them from extreme weather conditions. These are often made from aluminium since it’s lightweight and doesn’t rust, making them perfect for rigid panels, such as EcoFlow’s Rigid Solar Panels, for rooftop applications. Ground-mounted panels are typically mounted on steel frames and held in place with concrete. 

Alternatively, portable solar panels like the EcoFlow Portable Solar Panels don’t use a rigid frame; they use ETFE plastics to make them lightweight and more portable. 

What Materials Are Solar Panels Made Out Of?

Photovoltaic modules are made of some basic materials, with no rare earth materials needed.

  • Glass – 76% of photovoltaics are the glass that encases the silicon cells in between.
  • Polymers – 10% by mass; these plastic compounds called EVA (Ethylene vinyl acetate) adhere the silicon cells to the glass. 
  • Aluminum – 8% used mainly in the frame because it’s lightweight and rust-proof. 
  • Silicon – 5% by mass; this makes the photovoltaic cells that capture photons from the sun. 
  • Copper – 1% used primarily in conductors and wiring to connect the different cells in the panel together. 
  • Silver – less than 0.1%; this highly conductive metal intercepts the electrons in the silicon and turns them into electricity. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Main Raw Material for Solar Panels?

Photovoltaics are mostly made of glass (76%) with an additional 10% polymers, 8% aluminium, 5% silicon, 1% copper, and less than 0.1% silver and other elements like small amounts of lead and tin. 

Do Solar Panels Use Rare Materials?

Photovoltaics do not use rare earth metals like that found in wind turbines and EVs. Depending on the manufacturer, some use minimal amounts of minor metals like indium, gallium, selenium, cadmium, and tellurium. 

Final Thoughts

Solar panels are made from mostly simple, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly components, making them an excellent choice for clean, green energy production you can use anywhere, even allowing you to live off-grid. 

They’re also great for those on a budget who want to keep their living expenses down, as the energy they produce is free once you pay for them. Shop EcoFlow Solar Panels to start your renewable energy journey today.

EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.

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