Best flexible solar panels in 2023: Expert review
- 19 Dec 2022
- 6 min
Thin-film panels are the future of solar energy. Light-weight, cheap and thin, they’ll bring you power in places where rigid panels never could. The market of flexible PV modules is wide though, and it can be hard to make a good choice without guidance. That’s why we bring you this expert flexible solar panels review.
Five best flexible solar panels: A1SolarStore choice
Here‘s a list of the most efficient, aesthetically pleasing, lightweight models for your trailer, boat or tent — these could very well be the best flexible solar panels on the market. We picked them with the help of our engineer with two decades of experience in the solar industry.
Renogy 100 W panel: Public’s favorite
Out of all 100 W flexible solar panels, this is one of the most popular. The Renogy panel is about 70% lighter than conventional panels of the same size — a mere 4.2 lbs. It’s about as thick as a coin, and you can bend it almost to the point where the opposite ends of the panel meet. Renogy solar panels have great ratings, and this model comes with a 3-year material and workmanship warranty.
Alrska 180 W panel: For home and travel
Alrska is a brand that makes solar equipment specifically for off-grid applications. This 180 W panel is ready for adventures but will be just as efficient on a rooftop. A single module can provide an average of 500 to 600 watt-hours of electricity per day, depending on sun availability. Alrska engineers increased the efficiency of their panel by using monocrystalline half-cut PERC cells — the gold standard in the solar industry.
BougeRV 100 W CIGS panel: Maximum flexibility
Yuma 100L is 360-degree flexible, whereas most competitors can’t go beyond 248 degrees. The panel features copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells. CIGS panels are more expensive than standard thin-film panels but they are lighter and more durable. They also absorb light better which improves their energy yield. The tape on the back makes it easy to install your panels on any surface.
Newpowa 100 W panel: A reliable companion
This Newpowa 100 W module is a great flexible solar panel for boats, teardrop trailers, curved roofs and overlanding tents. It features back contacts instead of busbars which increase solar cell area by 3%, compared to similar but older models. Newpowa panels come with a 5-year limited material and parts workmanship warranty. They also have a 12-year performance warranty, guaranteeing at least 80% of the performance at the end of this period.
Renogy 200 W panel: Even more power
This 200 W Renogy panel is the most powerful on our list. It is just as bendable and efficient as other Renogy flexible solar panels, just with a larger power output. It is very sturdy — the front can bear a snow load of up to 5400 Pa and the back will resist winds of up to 2400 Pa. The connectors and the junction box of this model are fully waterproof. A boat, RV or a mountain cabin — this panel is up to any challenge.
Thin-film panels and where to use them
Flexible or thin-film panels are a less known type, compared to monocrystalline or polycrystalline modules. Making them involves applying photovoltaic material onto glass or metal substrates. They are most commonly used in mobile solar installations, such as RV, boat and camper systems.
Thin-film panels are thin, light-weight and bend well. The height of flexible modules ranges from 0.05 to 0.2 inches. These panels weigh from 1.5 to 5 lbs approximately. The level of flexibility differs between models, ranging from at least 30° to up to 360°.
Thin-film panels are usually fixed with silicone adhesives. You can use fasteners as well. An RV roof usually has space for several panels. Marine flexible solar panels can go on the deck, canvas or even on sails. Portable kits often come with mounting frames: you can put panels on the ground and turn them to the sun. Sometimes photovoltaic elements are integrated into cloth: there are backpacks with small flexible solar panels which can charge your phone or GPS navigator on the go.
Flexible panels tend to wear out faster than the rigid ones. Their average lifespan is only about 10-15 years, compared to the 25–30 years lifespan of rigid modules. Product warranties for thin-film panels usually don’t exceed 5 years, even though power output guarantees may last for 25 years.
Rigid vs. flexible solar panels comparison
|Average power output||Efficiency||Appearance||Lifespan|
black cells, rounded edges
blue cells, square shape
flexible and thin, different sizes and colors
The main advantage that rigid panels have over thin-film type is power output and efficiency. Mono- and polycrystalline panels put out over 300 W. The efficiency of monocrystalline modules often surpasses 20%. Thin-film panels are rarely rated above 200 W. Their efficiency usually ranges from 10% to 15%. Rigid panels are also more durable and last longer.
Are flexible solar panels any good then? Thin-film panels have a list of advantages of their own. They cost less and their small weight makes it easy to transport them. Since they bend, you can fix them on uneven surfaces. All this makes them a better choice for mobile applications.
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