Flexible Solar Cells / Panels (Advanced Guides)
When installing solar energy systems, one of the most important parts would be the solar panel itself. This is the part that is exposed and usually placed on the roof. It attracts energy from the sun and converts it into electricity. When buying solar panels, you will be confronted with tons of options. Generally speaking, they can be categorized into two: rigid and flexible solar cells/panels. Rigid, as the name implies, is a panel that is stiff and has a fixed shape. On the other hand, their flexible counterparts can be rolled and folded, making them portable. Keep on reading to learn more about flexible solar cells/panels.
What Is Flexible Solar Cells/Panels?
It is all in the name. Simply put, these are solar panels that are flexible. Unlike crystalline rigid panels, they can take different shapes. They can even be rolled, and hence, allowing users to bring them anywhere they wish. They are made from thin film cells, which can be encapsulated within a plastic material, basically the one making it flexible. Thin films can be made from different materials, such as copper indium gallium selenide and amorphous silicon.
What Are Their Advantages and Disadvantages?
Need reasons to be convinced to buy flexible solar cells/panels? Here are some of its many advantages:
- Versatile Applications: One of the best things about flexible panels is that they can be applied in different surfaces, even plastic or metal. They can even be used as a replacement for shingles and other common roofing materials. They will look better compared to rigid cells.
- Flexible: This is an obvious benefit. There are even some panels that can be rolled and folded, which can be brought in campsites or be installed in a boat. Nonetheless, you will still generally require a frame in order to properly install the solar panels.
- Can Resist External Conditions: It is also a good thing that flexible solar panels can be able to function efficiently even when it is in a low light environment. In addition, even when it is in cold temperatures, it can still work at its best. The material is not brittle, and hence, will not be prone to cracks that can possibly result from exposure to harsh temperatures.
- Practical Price: When compared to rigid solar panels, the flexible ones are more practical when it comes to cost. Their economical price tag can be because of various reasons, such as being made from cheaper materials.
In spite of its many benefits, however, there are also certain disadvantages. For instance, the following are the most common drawbacks of using flexible solar cells/panels:
- Lack of Efficiency: This is perhaps the most serious disadvantage of this type of solar cells. They are known for having conservative efficiency, which is typically only at 10%. Compared to rigid solar panels, it is not able to harness much energy from the sun. For this reason, it is commonly used only in applications wherein minimal power output will be required.
- High Cost: When you compute the total cost, you will realize that flexible panels can be more expensive compared to their rigid counterpart. Because they are less efficient, more panels will be needed. This also means that installation will be more expensive. The panel itself is cheap, but the overall price, including installation and maintenance, can be expensive.
- Minimal Lifespan: This is a relatively new technology, which is why its durability is still being questioned by many. Because they are flexible and often moved, this can have an impact on their lifespan.
What Are Their Uses?
The following are some of the most common applications of flexible solar cells/panels:
- For the House: If you are looking for an alternative source of energy at home, you need flexible solar panels. They can be easily installed on the roof. The good news is that since they are flexible, they can be installed even on curved roofs. This will make the panels look stylish.
- For the Campsite: For those who love the outdoors, especially camping, flexible solar panels can be an excellent investment. They are portable, and hence, can provide energy even when you are camping. Forget about having a noisy generator in the campsite.
- For the Boat: If you have a yacht, you should also consider the idea of having flexible solar panels. It can help save battery and fuel as it can provide the power that you need for different appliances, such as your sound system.
- For the RV: For people who love having road trips, having a solar panel in the RV will surely prove to be an excellent idea as well. This can provide energy on demand. With flexible solar panels, you can charge phones, watch TV, and use other appliances in the RV.
How Can You Choose The Best?
Not all flexible solar cells/panels are created the same. If you want to be provided with the best value for money, you need to spend time in differentiating one from the other. In this case, below are some of the most important tips to keep in mind:
- Find the Right Size: One of the first things that should be done is to determine the size of the panel that you need. This will depend on a variety of factors, such as your budget and the intended applications. If it is going to be used for the house, a larger one will be needed. On the other hand, if it is for a yacht or RV, smaller ones can suffice.
- Look at the Warranty: If the manufacturer is confident about the quality and functionality of their product, they will surely not hesitate to offer extensive warranty coverage.
- Consider Efficiency: The efficiency of the flexible solar panel will be indicative of the amount of energy that it can supply. Less efficient panels are cheaper, but they may not be able to provide energy for an extended period.
Seek Feedbacks from Other People: If you are clueless about which one to pick, the best thing to do is to read reviews that are available online or ask around from people you personally know. Their insights and experiences can help you make the right choice.