What are Flexible Solar Panels and Why Should You Buy Them?

What are Flexible Solar Panels and Why Should You Buy Them?

What are Flexible Solar Panels and Why Should You Buy Them?

While solar panels have been gaining wide popularity across the globe, it isn’t feasible to install 6 ft. panels everywhere. In this situation, a flexible solar panel can be the answer to all your problems. Especially if you are someone who travels a lot and needs portable sources of power to run your small appliances, these panels could be of great help to you. Today we’ll discuss the details of these panels, including their usage, suitability, and how they compare with rigid solar panels. If you have any questions about them, this blog has all the answers for you.

What is a Flexible Solar Panel?

We are all aware of the concept of solar panels. For those who don’t know, it is a device used to convert sunlight into electricity. Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells, that generate electrons when they are exposed to light. While flexible solar panels can also get this job done, they also bring portability along with it. The PV cells on these panels are fixed on a flexible material, which makes them easily bendable. They are usually much smaller than traditional solar panels, lightweight and ultra-thin. All of these features make them a viable and portable power source for your boats and RVs etc. Given their flexibility, these panels can easily be attached to curved roofs or windows. Additionally, with the help of adhesive tapes or velcro, you can also mount them to vertical surfaces, which isn’t possible in the case of rigid solar panels. However, you must keep in mind that not all panels can be folded completely, even if they are flexible. You can bend them to a certain extent, but if you fold them forcefully, you might end up damaging them.

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Types of Flexible Solar Panels

There are primarily three different types of flexible solar panels classified based on the materials used for their PV cells. They are mainly monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film solar panels. All these panels come with their own benefits and limitations, which we have discussed below:
  1. Monocrystalline solar panels
Some of the key features of Monocrystalline solar panels are:
  • These are one of the most efficient and highest power-producing solar panels.
  • They are made from crystalline silicon with a construction process of the highest quality.
  • To make these panels, crystalline silicon is formed into bars, and then silicon wafers are cut from it. The cells on the entire panel are made up of single-crystal silicon wafers, giving the panel a uniform microscopic structure.
  • It is because of their uniform structure that these flexible solar panels are so highly efficient in energy conversion.
  • These panels are the most expensive option among all available panels.
  • You can fold these panels only along their joints because of their crystalised formation.
  • If you need more flexible panels, find panels that have been manufactured by arranging PV cells into small sections divided with foldable joints.
  1. Polycrystalline solar panels
These panels can be best explained with the following points.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels are also made up of the same crystalline silicon. However, what sets them apart from monocrystalline solar panels is the method used for their construction.
  • To make these solar panels, manufacturers melt fragments of silicon and then let it solidify into crystals with random orientation to form the wafers.
  • Owing to their varied forms of crystallised cells, the power production capacity of these panels is also lower than monocrystalline panels.
  • To generate more electricity, you would need to install a higher number of these panels.
  • The cheaper production cost and low efficiency of these panels are also what makes them more affordable than monocrystalline solar panels.
  1. Thin film solar panels
Some key features of these panels include:
  • These are the least efficient solar panels among all three, with the lowest power production.
  • They are also the cheapest of all three solar panels.
  • To make these panels, instead of using silicon wafers, manufacturers use a thin layer of PV material and add it to an underlying layer.
  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe), amorphous silicon and copper indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) are some of the most commonly used PV materials for thin film flexible solar panels.
  • Due to their thin layer and design, you can fold these panels in any direction.
  • They are also very lightweight and can be mounted on vertical surfaces using adhesive tapes.
  • To compensate for their low energy conversion capacity, you would need to use them in larger quantities to generate more power.

Uses of Flexible Solar Panels

It is already clear by now that these panels are designed only to meet the small power requirements of an individual. If you are looking for a solar power system to power up your entire house, you would still need to resort to rigid solar panels. Even though they are much more expensive, flexible solar panels do not have enough power to run your house. Now let us take a look at what these solar panels can actually be used for.
  1. Boating
If you buy panels designed for marine settings with an ingress protection rating of 67 or higher, you can add them to your solar-powered boats. Some examples of these boats include leisure craft, day boats, houseboats etc. The flexible layout of these panels allows a person to install them on boats with irregular shapes. You can enhance the efficiency of these panels by combining them with solar batteries to have a hassle-free boating experience.
  1. RVs and Campers
Several recreational vehicles come solar-ready, and all you need to do is just install a solar panel on them. While this won’t turn your RV into an electronic vehicle, it will definitely allow you to run your appliances or lights with solar energy. You can fix the panels on the roof of your RV, and because they are so lightweight, it won’t affect your vehicle as well. However, if you need to run the air conditioner, flexible solar panels won’t be much help. Even if you power it up with batteries, you might still need additional power to run heavy appliances like an AC all night.
  1. Alternative rooftop solar power
Not all rooftops can support the weight of multiple rigid solar panels with their mounting brackets and other hardware combined. In other cases, you might already have an existing solar power set-up, but there are some spaces which are just not suitable to be filled up using rigid panels. In this case, you can use flexible solar panels to fill up those spaces. However, as already mentioned, you cannot use them as the only source of power to run your entire house. You can definitely use them as an alternate power source to expand your setup or to run small appliances during a power cut. connect vendor

Advantages of Flexible Solar Panels

Here are some of the advantages of using flexible solar panels.
  1. Lightweight
These solar panels are almost 80% less heavy than traditional rigid solar panels. While rigid panels weigh around 14 – 23 kgs, flexible panels are only 1.5 – 2.5 kgs. This makes them very convenient to be used over surfaces that won’t support heavy weight. It is also because of their lightweight that they are so suitable for use while camping or boating.
  1. Installation
Most flexible solar panels come with adhesive material added to them. This means you just need to paste them over the surface where you want to use them. Hence, it prevents you from going through all the trouble of drilling and fitting other hardware for installation. The installation of these panels is so easy that you can do it just by yourself without having to seek any professional assistance for the same.
  1. Flexibility
Depending on the type of flexible panel you buy, you can bend some of them all the way. While other panels can’t be bent to extreme angles, you can still bend them to some extent. This makes them more suitable to install on surfaces where you can’t fix rigid panels.
  1. Cost
One of the biggest advantages of these panels is that they are quite cheap. Especially if you buy thin-film panels, they cost very less. Hence, if you are looking for temporary solar power systems that you won’t use constantly, flexible solar panel prices would fit your budget more easily.

Disadvantages of Flexible Solar Panels

While the flexible panels are easy to use, they also have their own set of limitations.
  1. Durability
One of the biggest disadvantages of flexible solar panels is that they have a very short life span. Most of these panels come with a life span of only 5 – 15 years, whereas rigid panels can last for almost 40 years. It is because the flexible panels are made of thinner silicon.
  1. Secure installation
While they are easy to install because they are lightweight, strong winds might carry them away. Hence, even if you can just slap them on your wall with adhesive, to protect them from strong winds, you might still need a professional to help you install them. This disadvantage in some way nullifies their added advantage of flexibility, especially if you need to store them. Additionally, there are chances that the panels would overheat due to a lack of space between the panels and the roof. This would lead to damage to the panels and their lifespan reducing even further.
  1. Lesser efficiency
You can’t use a flexible panel to run heavy appliances or to power up your house. If you are planning to transition towards a sustainable and self-sufficient lifestyle, rigid panels would be your way to go ahead. Flexible panels do not have enough efficiency to generate so much power.

Flexible Solar Panel vs Rigid Solar Panel

There are several basic differences that set flexible panels apart from rigid panels. Here are some key differences between the two:
Basis Flexible Solar Panels Rigid Solar Panels
Construction These solar panels are made using thinner silicone which is then fixed on a flexible laminate. These panels are made with sturdy aluminium and heavy-duty glass.
 Even the biggest flexible panels usually reach a wattage of around 200 – 300 wattage. Rigid panels can give a wattage of around 600 – 700 wattage.
House power setup You can’t use these panels to power up your house or heavy appliances. You can use these panels to run your house and heavy appliances.
Durability These panels have a maximum lifespan of 15 years. Their lifespan can go up to 40 years.
Installation Depending on your model, you can even install them with just adhesive tapes. They need proper mounting racks to be installed. You might need to get a professional for it.
Energy conversion In full sunlight, they can convert 7% to 15% of the sun’s energy. In full sunlight, they can convert 20% to 30% of the sun’s energy.
Low light settings These are a more viable choice for lowlight settings. They need fully unobstructed light for optimum results.

Features to Look For In Flexible Solar Panels Before Buying Them

If you are going to buy flexible solar panels, these are some factors you must consider well in advance.
  1. Cost
Monocrystalline panels cost the highest of the three variants of the solar panel, but they are also more efficient. Additionally, you may need more than one panel and other accessories, such as batteries, to meet your needs. Hence, plan your budget according to your needs.
  1. Durable
Look for panels made with durable polymer substances. This increases the lifespan of these panels, which is generally around 10 to 15 years. If you are confused about these substances, you can choose a panel made either of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) or Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). ETFE panels are more expensive, but they are less prone to corrosion and have a longer lifespan. PTE panels, on the other hand, are more commonly bought materials.
  1. Flexibility
A 30-degree bending angle is the industry standard. However, with a few better quality flexible solar panels, you can get more flexibility.
  1. Wattage
The price of panels increases with their wattage. A 100-watt flexible panel can run your boat for some 3 hours or other small appliances. You would need around 175  W for your RV. You can also install multiple panels to meet your needs.
  1. Warranty
The general warranty period of a flexible solar panel ranges around 5 years which includes the workmanship and covering material. You can get longer warranties with higher-quality panels. Conclusion Flexible solar panels could be a great option to power up your small solar projects. They are flexible, lightweight, small and cost-efficient. However, rigid solar panels are much better for long-term and bigger installations. Depending on your needs, you can also combine them to make the best use of solar energy.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is the rating that tells you if your solar panel can withstand dust and immersion in water. Panels with an IP 67 rating mean they are dust protected and can withstand immersion in water up to 1 metre for 30 minutes.

Although they can run without ventilation, adding ventilation prevents solar panels from overheating. When the panels constantly suffer overheating, they can sustain damage, and their lifespan can be reduced.

Some sturdy-built solar panels sustain no damage even if you walk on them. However, it is still recommended not to do so. It will prevent the cells from damage and keep them in working condition for a longer time.

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