When it comes to flexible Solar Panels most have more in common than differences because the Flexible Panels are very similar to each other in the materials they use in the manufacturing process. This wasn’t the case not very long ago. Today, 100-watt Flexible Solar Panels use monocrystalline cells that are able to bend and mold onto different surfaces. What is the Best Flexible Solar Panel?
The Best Flexible Solar Panel:
- Made from Monocrystalline cells
- ETFE industrial plastic
- Contain a by-pass diode in Junction Box
- Is Lightweight & Durable
- Last up to 10 years
- Should bend to 30 degrees
- Have a waterproof & rugged outside finish
- A 100-watt Solar Panel will produce 5.6-5.8 amps & 18 -20 volts DC
With the introduction of crystalline, to the Flexible Solar Panel world like monocrystalline solar panels. Initially, these materials are too thick to be flexible, but by arranging them in thinner layers, they managed to give them enough Semi-flexibility while retaining excellent solar properties. This makes crystalline solar panels ideal for mildly curved surfaces like campers, RV roofs, and everywhere where solar panels wouldn’t work before.
Thin Photovoltaic Film
A thin-film solar cell is a second-generation solar cell that is made by depositing one or more thin layers, or thin-film (TF) of photovoltaic material on a substrate, such as glass, plastic, or metal, and came in a roll. One side was an adhesive side and you kind of rolled it out like a rug.
Since thin-film has found most of its success thus far in either large utility-scale projects or small pocket-sized calculators, it will take a major preference shift and production upgrade for the specialized modules to take off.
A thin-film solar panel is made of thin films of semiconductors deposited on glass, plastic, or metal. The films are incredibly thin, often 20 times thinner than c-Si wafers. Because they are so thin this gives them the extra elements of flexibility and lightweight.
If they are encased in plastic, the product could be flexible enough to mold to a roof’s shape or other space that it would not be possible to adhere to. When the glass is used, thin-film panels are more rigid and heavier.
There are three common thin-film divisions: amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) or gallium-free CIS. Thin-film solar panels are made with solar cells that have light-absorbing layers about 350 times smaller than that of a standard silicon panel. Because of their narrow design and the efficient semi-conductor built into their cells, thin-film solar cells are the lightest PV cell you can find while still maintaining strong durability.
Semi-Flexible Solar Panels
Somewhere between the Traditional Solar Panels that are framed, rigid, big, and bulky, construction and are often enclosed in tempered glass is the Semi-Flexible Solar Panels and the Thin-film Photovoltaic rolls of solar material that are made with solar cells that have light-absorbing layers of about 350 times smaller than that of Standard Monocrystalline Solar panels that have been used for many years.
The Semi-Flexible Solar Panels or Flexible Solar Panels are thinner alternatives that use Monocrystalline cells for that same great efficiency they are known for in the Industry. They can be bent up to 30 degrees without damaging inside components and the Solar Panels are easily installed without the need for mounting equipment or special technical knowledge.
Because of their thin and narrow design and the efficient semi-conductor built into their cells, they are light in weight flexible lightest Photovoltaic cells that you can find while still maintaining strong durability and producing energy and power as efficient as the Standard Panels.
This 100-watt DOKIO Semi-Flexible Solar Panel that is sold through Amazon weighs about 4.9 lbs. has a working voltage Vmp of 18 volts Working Current Imp of 5,56 amps and an open-circuit voltage of 22.5 volts
Flexible Solar Panel manufacturers begin building their solar cells by depositing several layers of a light-absorbing material, a semiconductor onto a substrate coated with glass, metal, or plastic. The materials used as semiconductors don’t have to be thick because they absorb energy from the sun very efficiently.
Manufacturers get better and better every year at making Solar Panels smaller and smaller every year but even more powerful and efficient. A lot of that reason is the materials they use in the process.
What is ETFE
Because of the construction, it can give more flexibility like this 100-watt Solar Panel in the picture. They can be used in much more difficult places where thicker bulkier standard constructed Solar Panels couldn’t be applied. Besides being flexible and rainproof and can be applied by adhesives, silicon glues, double sticky tapes, zip ties, or Velcro and most are made from the wonder construction plastic called ETFE. ETFE is strong enough to bear 400 times its own weight and is easier to repair if it is torn.
- ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) is an industrial-strength construction plastic used for exterior cladding since the 1980s.
- ETFE is strong and lightweight. It is often applied in layers that are welded together around the edges and held by a metal framework.
- Because it is safer and more adaptable than glass, non-rip ETFE is often used as a replacement for glass.
- Commercial uses of ETFE include many sports arenas and entertainment venues. Dynamic lighting of this plastic has been a successful feature of ETFE architecture.
- This material has been called a fabric, a film, and a foil. It can be sewn, welded, and glued together. It can be used as a single, one-ply sheet or it can be layered, with multiple sheets.
Some of these flexible solar panels are more bendable or flexible than others. So that is one thing to look for when you are deciding to purchase them. They are perfect for marine use or placement on top of a van or vehicle They can adhere to a boat, RV, or walls. Depending on the Solar Panel and the manufacturer will depend on how the panel should be mounted.
The jury has been out on the Flexible Solar Panels because of their fragile construction but they are being made in the States now with better materials that are getting much better made with better warranties and fewer problems which means longer operating life like the Rigid Solar Panels that are standards in the industry for now.
Flexible Solar Panel
There are many countries that are manufacturing Flexible Solar Panels now which knocks the price down but doesn’t necessarily make the same in quality. So the buyer should be beware if you are interested in this type of panel instead of the old Rigid type that is mainly used on roofs of residential homes and businesses.
Most Semi or Flexible Solar Panels look alike. If you look them up you will see that they’re basically the same size most come in 100-watt capacity 12 volts and look like the Standard Rigid panels.
This is because no they are using the same patterns and size Monocrystalline solar cells that contain the same type of efficiency as those proven standard panels. Each square cell on the panel puts out the same amount of power about 0.6 volts and 3.1 watts.
- 0.6 volts x 32 cells = to 19 volts
- 3.1 watts x 32 cell = 100 watts
These new Flexible and Semi-Flexible Solar panels are made from Monocrystalline cells which are the most efficient type of cell used in Solar Panels. That is another thing to look out for when looking to purchase these Flexible Solar Panels. They’re not equally built and there are not all made for the same application.
Some will fit your installation or application better than the next one. So don’t go out and buy the most expensive one to investigate a little and get what you need at the price you can afford. On the other hand, some the Solar Panels use the same components and still cost more than the rest. Another reason to educate yourself.
Flexible Solar Panel Review
Other things to look for in Semi-Flexible Solar Panels:
- What type of solar cell is made in the panel (there is a difference)
- Power Output-how much total power is being generated
- For a typical 12 volt-100 watt Solar Panel similar to the panels above they generally produce 5.6 -5.8 amps & 18 -20 volts DC
- There are other flexible Solar Panels with the same exact dimensions that are capable of producing 150 watts of DC power at 12 0r 24 volts set-up
- Just like all modern Solar Panels, all specifications on output from the manufacturer are located on a label on the back of the Panel (One thing I’ve learned about Solar is nothing is exact)
- Check the length of MC4 Cables coming from the Junction Box on the back of the Solar Panel-You will need to know this information when connecting Flexible Solar Panels in series to other panels and components.
- Check for information on the Junction Box and whether there is a Bypass diode inside the Junction Box which is needed if the panel is affected by shading that will protect it and the others by preventing any current from moving backward in the system.
- Check how many grommets are manufactured on the Solar Panel and how many you may need on the installation you are preparing for.
- The outside Finish may be something that you have a requirement for. Some Panels have a high gloss and some have a rubber mat type of look to them.
- They don’t scratch, are rugged, and you are able to walk on them. It is the wonder construction plastic called ETFE. ETFE is strong enough to bear 400 times its own weight and is easier to repair if it is torn. We talked about it in the paragraphs above.
- The surface on them is similar to the material being used on Backpack Solar Systems for hiking and heavy outdoor use. I bought a Big Blue Solar Backpack in October and wrote about it in an article about my son who hiked 400 miles on the Appalachian Trail. It was made of this ETFE material that can take abuse and holds up very well to it.
The result is a solar cell that can bend at about a 30-degree angle. While this is less flexible than thin-film solar, it’s well suited for a lot of applications where you want the solar panel to conform to a curved surface, such as the roof of an RV. The Flexible Solar Panels can range from the lower end at $ 130-150 all the way up to $425-450 .00 dollars.
On the lower to medium price Semi-Flexible Solar Panels– WindyNation 100W 100 Watt 12V Flexible Thin Lightweight Monocrystalline Solar Panel Battery Charger for RV, Boat, Cabin, Off-Grid Applications Semi-Flexible: the panel can be flexed to a maximum of 30 degrees. This allows the panel to be flush mounted to curved surfaces like RV’s, sailboats, campers, tents, etc. Ultra-thin: solar panel is only 0.1 inches thick
- The solar panel and junction box are completely water-resistant. Suitable for outdoor use in all weather conditions.
- Extremely lightweight and efficient. The solar panel weighs approximately 4 pounds and utilizes highly efficient monocrystalline solar cells. The panel is easy to transport and mount, which is ideal for mobile applications.
- Stainless steel grommet mounting holes in each corner are available to attach fasteners. The panel can also be mounted using adhesive or Velcro.
- A blocking diode is included in the junction box to eliminate battery discharge/draining at night. The solar panel arrives ready for installation with 12 AWG solar cable leads with PV Connectors pre-attached.
- These guys are an American Company and have a Community of people answering questions
WindyNation 1404 Fleet Ave
Ventura, CA 93003 It is our policy to answer every phone call within 48 hours.
On the Higher side of Flexible Solar Panels is the Luoshan Solar Panel, 100w Laminated Semi-Flexible Waterproof Solar Panel, Suitable for Outdoor Sports/Outing Trip
- ETFE laminated, increase the photoelectric conversion rate by 5%, increase the surface abrasion resistance, and high stain resistance, easy to clean
- Junction box waterproof grade: IP65, junction box material: ABS, using potting process, waterproof grade up to IP67
- ABS material, pure copper hanging ring, Sunpower battery–Semi-Flexible: the panel can be flexed to a maximum of 30 degrees.
- Suitable for outdoor camping, emergency power failure, sea fishing, mountaineering, orchard irrigation, mountain power, forest areas, courtyard lighting, corridor lighting, mobile phone charging, backup power supply
- Note: Due to manual measurement, please allow 1-3.0Mm errors. Please make sure you don’t mind before buying
Luoshan International Inc. was founded in 2010 in Sacramento, California.
Luoshan International Inc. PALLET RACK & WAREHOUSE STORAGE email@example.com
Luoshan International Inc. was founded in 2010 in Sacramento, California. It completely moved its businesses down to the Greater Los Angeles Area in 2012. We aim at providing the best products and quality of service to your business at lower costs. All of our products are backed by a “Low Price Guarantee”.
We also offer low and fair Freight. Your complete satisfaction is our number one priority. As part of our commitment to service and customer satisfaction, we offer a “No Hassle” Return Policy on all the products we sell.
Right away you see both of these companies are American with addresses and telephone numbers in the states. If you see some similarities between the Solar Panels they are close in what they do what they weigh and perform. They can be flex the same but the warranty will be longer on the Luoshan Solar Panel because the construction material they use is much better. Again we see the ETFE material used in making the Luoshan Solar Panel is a plus. Most of these Flexible Panels have 2-3 years warranties but now have risen up to 10 years coverage.
A year or so back the majority of Flexible Solar Panels were made in China with no way of reaching them once you purchased the material from reliable online services like Amazon. Things are changing for the better. If you did have an issue with most of the manufacturers that sold Solar Panel, especially the Flexible Solar systems there was no one to talk to and no parts to buy. So even though Luoshan parts are made in China they are shipped from Great Britain and the Sacramento California area making them more accountable for parts or returns.
Mounting Flexible Solar Panels
This video uses tape and plastic tie-on as an easy install for Semi-Flexible Solar Panels and uses a method that will add air flow to the installation that will allow the Solar Panel to stay cool while operating. The owner shows a few ways of attaching the panel, if you have roof racks you can use plastic ties on them.
You can screw down through the metal roof through the grommets holes that are on the Panel or you can use an adhesive caulk or as he does a roll of 2-sided tape.
There is a known problem with flexible Solar Panels laying flat against a surface when heat builds up underneath the panels causing over-heating problems to the cells. This problem will eventually destroy the cells in the Solar Panel. One way to get around this is to add an air space between the backing of the Panel and the surface you are applying it to.
In the video, the owner offers what I thought was a great solution to the problem that will work and that’s inexpensive, and should work on other surfaces like Campers, Vans, or RVs. Check it out!
References: Thought Co.-ETFE and the New Look of Plastic
Solar Power World–What is Thin-Film Solar