What are Flexible Solar Panels?
A flexible solar panel is a lightweight and aesthetic type of solar panel that can stretch due to the materials used in its production and different production techniques.
In this article, you will get to know the flexible solar panel, which can be used in yachts, caravans, and portable products thanks to its lightness and flexibility.
Solar panels are the basis of photovoltaic systems, which are the most common in solar electricity generation. Various types of solar panels are used in different areas of the market. Traditional solar panels such as monocrystal, and polycrystal are the most common types in the market. The use of flexible solar panels, another type of solar panel, is increasing day by day. Let’s take a closer look at flexible solar panels.
What is a Flexible Solar Panel?
The flexible solar panel is a lightweight type of solar panel that can stretch due to the materials used in its production and can be used in specific areas such as caravans, yachts, and portable products.
Flexible solar panels are thinner than standard solar panels and the materials used in their structure are slightly different. This makes the flexible panel bendable and lighter. Thanks to this feature, we can see these solar panels in various areas.
The flexible solar panel is also considered as new generation solar panels such as bifacial, half-cut solar panels.
Structure of Flexible Solar Panel
Flexible solar panels have photovoltaic silicon solar cells in their structure, similar to standard solar panels. However, the flexible solar panel is made of solar cells that are 300 times thinner than the solar cells used in standard solar panels. This makes flexible panels much lighter and more flexible.
Unlike conventional solar panels, the surface of flexible panels is not covered with glass or metal. Instead, it is covered with an easily bendable polymer known as ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). This makes the panel as thin and light as possible and allows the cells to be shaped. Flexible panels also do not have an aluminum frame, making them easier to install.
Of course, this flexible structure of the flexible panel also comes at a price. Flexible panels have lower efficiency and durability than standard panels.
The Efficiency of Flexible Solar Panel
Although the efficiency of the flexible panel varies according to the usage conditions and panel type, its efficiency is between 9% and 15%. The power output of flexible panels is currently between 100 W-175 W.
The efficiency of flexible solar panels decreases over the years since their first use. Since it is less efficient and durable than standard solar panels, the loss of efficiency is higher every year. For this reason, while most solar panel manufacturers provide between a 20-25 year warranty for conventional solar panels, they provide a 10-15 year warranty for flexible panels. The life of the flexible panel is also considered to be between 15-20 years.
Where are Flexible Solar Panels Used?
The flexible solar panel is used in a wide variety of areas. It has many uses from portable materials to yachts.
Flexible Solar Panels for RVs
The electricity required for lighting, charging and the use of devices such as refrigerators and TVs in RVs is powered by batteries. There are solar panels in many caravans for charging these batteries.
Flexible solar panels are also frequently used in RVs. Due to its aesthetic appearance, lightweight, and bendability, it is very convenient to install for many caravan models.
Flexible Solar Panels for Boats
Ships, yachts, boats need electricity for functions such as lighting and navigation. Flexible solar panels are used to meet all or part of this need.
On small yachts, they can provide all the electricity, while on large yachts they are used to charge the batteries. In this way, the fuel required for charging the batteries is saved.
Thanks to the adaptability, lightness, and flexibility of flexible panels, they can be easily installed in unused areas of yachts.
Use in Portable and Wearable Products
Flexible solar panels are also widely used in wearable and portable products. When you go camping, you can meet your lighting and charging needs with solar cells outside your tent, or you can charge your phone with a mini flexible panel mounted on your backpack during a hike.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Flexible Solar Panel
From what we have explained so far, you have understood the positive and negative aspects of flexible solar panels. As with everything, many advantages of flexible panels also bring disadvantages.
Flexible Panel Advantages
- The main advantages of flexible panels can be listed as follows.
- It is very light due to its structure.
- It is very flexible due to the thinness of its cells and the polymer material on its surface.
- It has a more aesthetic appearance than standard solar panels.
- Being light, flexible, and aesthetic allows flexible panels to be used in very specific areas such as portable and wearable products.
- Installation is easier than standard solar panels.
Disadvantages of Flexible Panel
- Some disadvantages of flexible panels are as follows.
- Their efficiency is lower than standard solar panels.
- The efficiency loss is higher during years of working conditions.
- Its lifetime is shorter than standard solar panels.
- Unit cost is quite high compared to standard panels.
- Flexible panels provide a lower power output than standard panels.
How Much Are Flexible Solar Panels?
We have stated that flexible panels are more expensive than standard solar panels. So how much do flexible solar panels cost? Although the answer to this question varies according to the period, the price of a standard flexible panel varies between $ 100 and $ 500 depending on its power and quality.
As a result, the flexible panel provides diversity to users in solar electricity generation. Even if it is not possible to use in power plants and residences due to lower efficiency, power output and high cost, its use in ships, caravans, and portable and wearable products creates innovation in many respects.
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