Best Flexible Solar Panels in 2020: Expert Reviews & Guide

Best Flexible Solar Panels banner-1Flexible solar panels are relatively new in the solar industry. Traditional rigid solar panels, such as the ones you put on your rooftop to power your home, have been around for decades. If you have a more portable use-case (such as traveling, RV, boat, camping), or a rooftop that is not a standard shape, then flexible solar panels are the right choice.

Let’s take a deep dive look into the best flexible solar panels with product reviews, FAQs, and impact to the power grid.

Best Flexible Solar Panels: Overall Picks

Renogy Panel Review

renogy flexible solar panel reviewThis panel is the best bang for your buck. It comes in three wattage ratings of 50W, 100W, and 160W. The prices for each wattage increase as the wattage increase. With only a 0.1 of an inch tall (compared to 1.26-1.6 inches for rigid panels), it will not get in the way or look bulky when installing. Designed to work outdoors, it’s been tested with very high winds and snow loads to ensure it can withstand storms.

The major features are as follows:

  • Flexibility: 248 degrees of bending flexibility
  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Mounting: Mounted using the provided silicone structural adhesive
  • Electrical: Junction box (holds all electrical equipment) is IP 68 rated (i.e., waterproof)
  • Efficiency: 21% solar cell efficiency
  • Power Warranty: 25-year power output warranty
  • Product Warranty: 5-year product warranty

This solar panel is ISO9001 certified. If you are into the details, you can check out Renogy’s spec sheet here. Overall, this solar panel is perfect for almost all applications outdoors or indoors. Highly recommended!

SunPower Flexible Panel Review

SunPower Flexible Panel reviewSunPower, a powerhouse solar manufacturer, has its very own flexible panel. Similar to Renogy, it also comes in three wattage ratings of 50W, 100W, and 110W, an 170W. Let’s check the specifications:

  • Flexibility: 30 degrees of bending flexibility
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Mounting: Mounted using the provided silicone structural adhesive
  • Electrical: Junction box (holds all electrical equipment) is IP 68 rated (i.e., waterproof)
  • Efficiency: 23-25% solar cell efficiency
  • Power Warranty: 5-year power output warranty
  • Product Warranty: 2-year product warranty

Compared to Renogy, SunPower operates at a higher solar cell efficiency thus being able to transform more of the sun’s irradiation into useable energy. The biggest con of the Sunpower flexible solar panel is the 5-year power output warranty to 80% of maximum output (110W times 80%). In general, though, solar panels tend to last for a long period of time with 0.5%-1.0% drop per year. These warranties are present to protect the consumer in the case the solar cells fail early in its life (e..g, if before 5 years, the output goes to 80%). You can check out more specification details in this PDF from SunPower.

Expert Opinion: Note on other brands
Apart from Renogy and Sunpower, there are other manufacturers. However, we do not recommend any others because they either have worse warranties, are built with lower quality soler cells, or are not U.S.-based companies. Examples of such brands are AllPowers, KingSolar, and WindyNation.

Flexible Solar Panel Benefits to a 24/7 Clean Power Grid

TheEnergyFix is here to be the information gateway to a 100% clean power grid running on 24/7 renewable energy. These solar panels are best used in residential or traveling applications. Here are some suggested use-cases for these panels:

  • Home Charging Port: mount a solar panel to your window, outside, or rooftop (if possible). Use the electricity generated from the panel to on-demand charge your phones, laptops, or other such devices. Another alternative is to charge a solar battery which can later be used to charge your devices.
  • Pool and/or Spa pumps: do you have an indoor/outdoor pool or spa in your residence? Instead of using electricity from the grid, power the water pumps with flexible solar panels.
  • RV: instead of using grid electricity when you are traveling in your RV, install a few of these panels on the rooftop of your RV and use electricity/store it on the go.
  • Camping: instead of using grid electricity when you are camping for any reason, take a flexible panel with you. Place it on top of a tree, or in an open area, and utilize the energy it outputs.

All of these applications utilize local renewable energy instead of relying on the power grid. This is a direct one-to-one offset of carbon emissions, such that any amount of energy you generate and use with flexible panels is the same amount of energy a coal plant does not generate for you.

FAQ about Flexible Solar Panels

What are the different types of flexible solar panels?

Thin-film and crystalline are the two different types of solar panels.

Thin Film

In thin-film panels, the photovoltaic material is printed onto a surface directly. By nature of printing, this makes the device more flexible in nature. Thin-films can be printed on many material-types such as clothing, windows, and paper. Researchers at MIT have been exploring placing flexible solar panels on clothing.

Thin-film, however, has not captured the market as dominantly as its counterpart, crystalline. Thin-films are in general more expensive to manufacture and less efficient. The efficiency of thin-films ranges from 4%-12%, whereas for crystalline it’s 13%-19%.

Crystalline Silicon

The most common solar material out there. Crystalline has two subtypes, called polycrystalline and monocrystalline. These solar cells are made by cutting silicon wafers and if the wafers are cut think enough, they become flexible in nature.

Compared to thin-films though, crystalline can only bend to a maximum of 30 degrees. This may limit it’s use cases but will work fine for RV, camping, and outdoor activities.

In general, crystalline cells are cheaper to manufacture compared to thin-films and are more efficient. If you are shopping for the best flexible solar panels, most likely you will be buying one with this material technology.

What are the similarities and differences between flexible solar panels vs rigid solar panels?

Let’s compare flexible vs rigid solar panels:

  • Flexible panels are bendable to upwards of 30-45 degrees. Rigid is not.
  • Flexible panels have multi use-case. Rigid is mostly for stationary use-cases.
  • Flexible panels have less power output than rigid
  • Flexible panels are less durable than rigid (due to not being protected by the glass as in the rigid panel case)
  • Flexible panels have shorter manufacture warranties than rigid.

How do I mount flexible solar panels?

Flexible panels can be mounted with glue, velcro, or other such adhesives. You do not need to screw them down or drill holes to fasten them down. This is a huge benefit or rigid panels.

The panels are portable so if you choose to use velcro, for example, you can remove them and use it in another application. Very handy!

How do warranties work?

Most solar manufacturers will have power and product warranty. For example, Renogy states for its 25-year power output warranty:

  • 5 year/95% efficiency rate
  • 10 year/90% efficiency rate
  • 25-year/80% efficiency rate

This means that within 5-years if the efficiency rate is anything less than 95%, then you are covered. Or if within 25-years of use, the efficiency is less than 80%, then you are also covered. It is expected that after 80% the solar panel is no longer useable since it will not output the power requirements needed to operate your devices.

Why does the manufacture give such warranties? Sometimes solar cells within a panel fail thus reducing the efficiency of the panel itself. You are not at fault for that and thus you are protected.

You also get a typical 5-year product and workmanship warranty. This has nothing to do with the solar cells themselves but if the panel itself physically starts to come apart because of manufacture fault, you will be covered. Of course, general wear and tear are on you.

What is the best flexible solar panel for RV?

Typically, RV adventures travel through all types of terrain including deserts, and extremely cold climates. SunPower, due to it’s better to power temperature coefficient, will perform better in hot climates compared to the Renogy. Both Renogy and SunPower are ideal for RVs but if you know you will be consistently in warm climates go with the SunPower panel.

What is the best flexible solar panel for camping?

Both panels, SunPower and Renogy, are ideal for camping. The Renogy is one pound lighter than the Sunpower so if you will be backpacking while camping then the extra point could be a good saving.


Verdict

Helping the power grid becoming carbon-free while having an abundant source of energy is a no-brainer when it comes to using flexible solar panels. We reviewed the best flexible solar panels in the market, covered various use cases, FAQ, and what to consider when buying.

As for our expert recommendation, the Renogy panel is ideal because of the ideal price point, excellent 25-year warranty, and flexibility angel. If you have a very specific use-case where you truly need the high-efficiency panel, then SunPower is ideal.