A flexible solar panel is a really useful bit of kit, especially if you’re an outdoorsy type.
Obviously, installing a full solar PV system is a big financial commitment. You can be sure it’ll generate some energy, but you can’t know in advance just how much. You can’t easily take it down if you change your mind, or take it away with you when you travel. A flexible solar panel is a great introduction to the technology. It won’t generate masses of power, but it will provide you with some (green) energy where you wouldn’t normally be able to get it.
How do solar panels work?
Solar energy is created by photovoltaics. A semiconductor material is treated to form an electric field. This is positive on one side and negative on the other. When sunlight hits a solar panel, electrons get knocked loose from atoms in the semiconductor layer. When electrical currents are attached to the positive and negative ends of the panel, it forms an electrical circuit and electricity is created. Solar is classed as a renewable energy because it generates no fossil fuels and is – in theory – limitless, as long as the sun is shining.
When to use a flexible solar panel
Flexible solar panels are highly portable because they are – you guessed it – flexible, and less fragile that rigid glass models. They are lightweight, easy to carry and won’t take up much space in your bag or boot. Most flexible solar panels can be rolled up. They perform in low light, so you won’t need to guarantee blazing sunshine in order for them to start generating electricity. Because they’re flexible, they can be easily attached to the roof of a car or caravan, meaning it can generate electricity even while you travel. There are quite a few occasions when having your own portable source of renewable energy can come in pretty handy. We’re just going to mention a few!
Flexible solar panel for camping
Take a flexible solar panel camping or to a festival to avoid getting ripped off at a phone charging point! Solar energy can also be used to charge a battery to light your camp up when the sun goes down. The electricity’s also useful to blow up air beds or power a kettle. You’ll never have to go without a pot noodle again…!
Flexible solar panel for sailing
A lot of flexible solar panels are waterproof, meaning you can take one sailing. Whether you’re going out on a long trip, or just for the day, it’s always useful to have electricity. Taking a flexible solar panel means that next time your phone runs out of battery, or you’d love to warm up with a cup of tea, you can do something about it!
Types of flexible/semi-flexible solar panel
Amorphous solar panels
- Made by depositing silicon onto a surface
- Works even in low light levels
- BUT large areas needed to generate substantial power
- Small pieces of silicon fused together
- Works well in direct sunlight BUT if even one cell gets shaded, it sucks power from those around it, dramatically reducing the panel’s efficiency
- Cells made from large individual pieces of silicon
- The cheapest option
- BUT just as affected by shade as polycrystalline panels
Free solar energy wherever you are
Good quality flexible solar panels are resistant to damage – a lot of them can even be walked over! They remain functional even under harsh outdoor conditions and they’re a supply of free, renewable energy. What’s not to like?
An 150Watt panel normally costs around £150-200, but you can get smaller models even cheaper.