Sweet Answer from Solar Mango: (updated Jul 2015)
Individually, a solar cell is able to produce only about 1V. This is too small for most applications. Hence the solar cells are connected in series to form the solar panels so that a higher voltage output is obtained from them.
Solar cells are different from solar panels, and there is a world of difference between the manufacturing of these two. In fact, while solar cell making is high-end manufacturing, solar module making is more an assembly operation.
Putting it short and sweet, cell manufacturing is high-end fabrication. This involves the use of both high-end fabrication systems including use of a number of chemicals along the way. To accomplish these, you need to invest in facilities such as clean rooms and in complex fabrication systems.
Solar panel making, on the other hand is mainly an assembly process. This involves essentially grouping together a number of components such as cells, EVA, backsheets, and Aluminium frames and stitching them all together.
As you can imagine, an assembly process will any day be far less sophisticated than a high-end fabrication process. As a result, the investments required for module assembly are far less than the investments for solar cell manufacturing.
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