From digital nomads to outdoor adventurers, flexible solar panels are a great option to provide clean, renewable energy wherever life takes you. But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which model is the best option for you?
In this article, we will review what flexible solar panels are, how they differ from rigid solar panels, and which one is the best for your needs.
Flexible Solar Panels Vs. Rigid Solar Panels
A typical monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panel is constructed of silicon wafers that are typically slightly thicker than human hair. Although relatively thin, the coating is rigid and easily broken, forcing most solar cells to be protected with metal and glass enclosures.
Flexible solar panels belong to a family of solar products called ” thin-film panels. ” Flexible panels are built with layers of silicon more than 300 times smaller than standard solar panels, allowing them to flex and still maintain their functionality.
The biggest obstacle to flexible solar panels is that they are much less efficient than rigid ones. Today’s rigid solar panels have an average efficiency of 16-20%. However, flexible thin-film solar panels are only 7-15% efficient, which means it will take more to produce the same amount of electricity that a rigid panel would.
Flexible solar panels are probably not suited for rooftop power production, but they are a great option for anyone who needs light, portable power. Durable and lightweight, flexible solar panels are ideal for small-scale mobile applications such as RVs, boats, and other energy needs that don’t require high power.
How Do Flexible Solar Panels Work?
As for solar technology, flexible solar panels work in the same way as rigid panels. The question is then: How do solar panels work in general?
Solar panels convert the energy of photons (light particles) into electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. When a photon hits a solar module, its energy causes electrons to flow inside the solar cells, producing an electrical current.
The resulting electricity is direct current (DC), which is commonly used in battery-powered devices. For home or commercial use, direct current is converted to alternating current with an inverter.
Types Of Solar Panels
The heart of a solar panel is the cell, so let’s start there.
The solar cell monocrystalline is made of solid silicon crystal. Monocrystalline cells allow more electron flow, resulting in a smaller, more efficient panel. But they are usually more expensive.
Polycrystalline cells are made of many individual fragments of silicon. They are not as efficient as mono solar cells, but polycrystalline cells have a lower price.
Thin-film cells can be polycrystalline or monocrystalline but are up to 300 times thinner than their rigid counterparts. Aside from the obvious advantages of flexibility, thin-film panels can offer better low-light performance than rigid panels. However, they tend to be less efficient overall.
But this is something that can be solved in a very short time thanks to perovskite, and in Poland, the world’s first industrial line of solar panels based on perovskite has already been put into production. Perovskite film-coated photovoltaic panels are lightweight, flexible, and can be easily attached to almost any surface to produce electricity, even inside buildings.
How Much Do Flexible Solar Panels Cost?
Flexible solar panel costs vary based on size, quality, efficiency, durability, materials, capacity, features, and even brand. From $ 150 for a single 100-watt panel to $ 1,000 or more for multi-panel units, there are flexible solar panel options for any need and budget.
How To Choose The Best Flexible Solar Panel
Now that you have an idea of how flexible solar panels work and the best models available, you may be interested in buying one. When you’re ready to shop for solar panels, here are a few things to keep in mind to narrow down the best options for your energy and budget needs.
Design And Size
To start, determine the space in which you plan to place your new flexible solar panel. If it is a relatively large space (the roof of a caravan, for example), you will have more options to choose from. If it is a small space or an uneven surface, you will want to look for more efficient and higher-capacity panels.
You will also have to take into account if the space in which you plan to install it is flat or curved and if it has obstacles when placing it. The good news is that a slightly curved surface is usually not a problem for flexible solar panels. If your installation area has a sharp curve, be sure to buy a flexible solar panel with a sufficient range of motion.
The higher the power of a solar panel, the more electricity it can produce under the same conditions. To accurately calculate how many solar panels you need, compare the daily power of the solar panel with the needs of the appliances or devices you want to power with solar energy.
In general, flexible panels are less efficient than rigid panels, but they tend to perform better in low-light situations. If you choose a less efficient panel, you will need more panels to produce the same amount of energy that a more efficient panel would produce.
Remember that where you live also influences the efficiency of solar panels.
Fortunately, flexible solar panels are very easy to install. Many of the flexible solar panels on the market come with an adhesive backing and plug-and-play components, making installing your new solar system easier than ever.
If you are looking for a flexible solar panel, you most likely need it to withstand the rigors of the road, water, or trail.
Flexible solar panels are among the toughest options on the market, with most offering excellent weather resistance, flexibility, and a construction calculated to withstand conditions that a rigid panel could not withstand.
Cost is often the limiting factor when choosing a flexible solar panel.
If you are looking for something too small, power electronics, or to keep batteries charged, you don’t have to go broke. For less than $ 250, you can get a ready-to-install kit.
But a little more power comes at a higher price. Buy only what you need and expand it by chaining panels or expanding the system if your needs increase. You can always add panels to a parallel installation.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: Flexible solar panels
Are Flexible Solar Panels Good?
Yes, modern, flexible solar panels are an excellent and durable alternative to rigid panels. They can withstand a large number of shocks, are adaptable, and provide a large amount of power for small appliances and batteries. The only downsides are that they are slightly less efficient than rigid panels and may not last as long.
Do flexible solar panels last as long as normal solar panels?
Generally no, flexible solar panels do not last as long as normal solar panels. Rigid panels last between 25 and 40 years. Flexible panels maintain their functionality for between 15 and 25 years.
Can you walk on the flexible solar panels?
Most flexible solar panels can be walked on. Check with the manufacturer if your panel can be stepped on and if doing so voids the warranty.
What are the best flexible solar panels?
The best flexible solar panels have a high degree of flexibility, durability, and low-light conversion. A good example is the flexible Renogy 175W solar panel.