Advancement in technology is affecting every area of human life. In terms of power, it has led to the development of flexible solar panels which are at the heart of solar energy. The main problem that flexible solar panels solve is bulkiness. Rigid solar panels are bulky and their nature limits where you can mount them. Also, rigid solar panels are fragile because of their glass top layer. Flexible solar panels are easier to handle which gives room for flexible mounting. 

With the increasing number of flexible solar panel manufacturers, there has been an explosion in the number of options available on the market. Thus, one of the greatest challenges facing those thinking of setting up a solar system is finding the best flexible solar panels. We want to make that choice easier for you. That is why we have compiled a list of the best flexible solar panels. 

What are flexible solar panels?

In the standard polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar panels, the silicon wafers used in the manufacture can be up to 200 micrometers thick. In flexible solar panels, that silicon wafer is sliced so that it is just a few micrometers wide. This ultrathin silicon wafer allows a solar panel to be flexible. The increasing demand for solar energy is driving innovations in the various solar panel types. 

While flexible solar panels have been around for a while, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were able to devise means to advance organic solar cells. Instead of using silicon, they are now exploiting organic materials with graphene electrodes. Typical electrodes are brittle and this is the main limitation in making flexible solar panels with electrodes. However, with the flexible graphene electrodes, we may see more stable, more flexible, and thinner solar panels in the future. 

How are flexible solar panels made?

In the production of flexible solar panels, a thin film of photovoltaic (PV) cells is layered onto a layer of plastic. The film layers are about 300 times smaller than what you will find in standard silicon solar panels. However, in conventional solar panels, the underlying layer is either glass or metal. Depending on the solar project, this can be quite a fascinating option. 

How to install flexible solar panels

There is so much confusion on how to install a flexible solar panel. However, one of the best ways of mounting a flexible solar panel is using a Roof Space and Eternabond bond roof repair tape. 

First of all, you need to choose high-quality solar panels and find the perfect location on the roof. Install the panel on a roof spacer which protects the panel from high temperatures and prevents the buildup of water under the panels. Clean the edges of the panel with acetone. 

Use Ethernabond roof repair tape to adhere the edges of the panel on the surface and secure it using a roller. Make sure the Ethernabond has a minimum of 4 inches in width for the best result. 

Review of the Best Flexible Solar Panels

The choice of flexible solar panels will largely depend on the intended use and the available space. However, flexible solar panels are usually most suitable for RVs and motorhomes. Below are some of the best flexible solar panels. We have highlighted their strongest qualities and grouped them to make it easier for you to make a choice. Without further chitchats, here are our picks. 

Renogy 175 watts extremely flexible solar panel – Best overall

Key features

  • Maximum power output of 175W
  • 6.2 pounds weight
  • IP68 waterproof junction box
  • 19.5V optimum operating voltage

When you need more power from your solar panel but have limited space for installation, Renogy 175 watts flexible solar panel will help you to overcome the limitation. At just 6.2 pounds, this solar panel weighs roughly a quarter of standard solar panels. This pairs with the foldable nature (up to 248 degrees arc) to make its transportation easy. Also, these properties make it easier to install it in places that other solar panels cannot fit like the curved roof on a motorhome. 

Renogy 175W can withstand a pressure of up to 2,400 Pa and a snow load of up to 5,400 Pa. This gives you the flexibility of using it in a diverse environment. Interestingly, you can use this solar panel with all battery types. This extremely flexible solar panel consists of multi-layered sheet lamination which enhances cell performance. Another ridiculous feature is the presence of bypass diodes that minimizes power drops resulting from shades. This ensures optimum performance in a low-light environment. 

Renogy 175W has its own flaws. For example, there have been cases where the lamination began to peel after short use. Also, the panels seem to deteriorate after short use. Many report power output drops to less than 50% in less than a year. Finally, it cost a premium to own one of these. Regardless of the criticism, all previous users agree that this product is great when it works. 

Pros

  • Up to 175 watts of energy output
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Fold up to 248 degrees allows installation on an uneven surface
  • Waterproof junction box with IP68 rating

Cons

  • Extremely expensive
  • Durability seems to be a major challenge
  • Renogy customer care needs improvement
  • Short positive cables

Renogy 100 watts monocrystalline solar panel – Best 100w flexible solar panel

Key Features

  • 4 pounds weight
  • IP68 waterproof junction box
  • Bendable up to 248 degrees
  • 18.9V optimum operating voltage

Like the Renogy 175W (but smaller in dimension), the Renogy 100 watts monocrystalline solar panel is a force to contend with among 100 watts solar panels. This makes it perfect for mounting on smaller spaces like RVs and boats. This solar panel weighs 70% less than conventional solar panels and this due to the advanced polymer material used in the manufacture. The ultrathin lamination doesn’t add to the weight and allows maximum reception of sunrays. 

Like every other Renogy flexible solar panel, the 100 watts can withstand extreme wind of up to 2,400 Pa and snow load of up to 5,400 Pa. With a junction box waterproof rating of IP68, you are certain that it will endure punishment from rain and snow. The easy mounting technique of the Renogy 100 watts is also another great relief. All you need is silicone structural adhesive. However, for non-mobile use, you can install it using the grommets. 

Renogy products are often overpriced. You will likely have the same experience with the 100 watts flexible solar panel. However, that will likely be the least of your problems. The majority of users complain that the solar panel produces far less than the quoted output. If you want to stack them up, you will need to purchase an extension cable. Notwithstanding the shortfalls, it is still one of the best when it comes to 100W flexible solar panels. 

Pros

  • Junction box is waterproof
  • Bend up to 248 degrees making it suitable for uneven surfaces
  • Extremely lightweight 
  • Ultrathin lamination

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Total power output is questionable

SunPower 110 watts – Best flexible solar panels for RV

Key features

  • 4.4 pounds weight
  • 18.8V maximum operating voltage 
  • Bendable up to 30 degrees

When it comes to solar energy technology, SunPower is definitely one of the best products on the market. Unlike Renogy which can flex to insane angles, SunPower 110 watts panel can only flex 30 degrees. Nevertheless, this is still enough to allow for installation on uneven surfaces. One of the biggest relief with this product is the warranties. Upon purchase, you will get 5-year power and a 2-year product warranty backed by SunPower. 

Renogy 100W has just a minute higher operation voltage than SunPower 110—but this is negligible. SunPower 110W solar panel is made with Maxeon Gen III prime back contact cells which have 25% more efficiency. This is definitely one of the highest power output and highest charging capacity in its class. The thin-film lamination allows this product to perform optimally under a low-light environment. 

There are fewer problems with SunPower 110W. Notwithstanding, knowing them ahead of time can help you to make a better choice. The first and biggest problem will likely be the huge price tag. Also, it is important to mention that if you want to disconnect the MC4 connections, you will need to order a special tool for it. In addition to pushing up your budget, the waiting time to get it delivered to you can be frustrating. These issues aside, your RV will definitely be welling up with more power. 

Pros

  • Lightweight flexible solar panels
  • Good flexibility of up to 30 degrees
  • Up to 5-year warranty
  • Offers 25% more efficiency
  • Thin-film lamination boost performance in a shady environment

Cons

  • Highly expensive
  • Need special to disconnect MC4 connection

ALLPOWERS 100 watts – Best semi-flex solar panels

Key features

  • 4.7 pounds weight
  • 18V maximum operating voltage 
  • Bendable up to 30 degrees

Allpowers flexible solar panel makes use of 32 solar cells to capture solar energy. Consequently, its efficiency is up to 23.5%. While this is impressive, it is still far lower than what you will get with most of the superior flexible solar panels. However, this is still considerably higher than the 17 to 19% efficiency you will expect from traditional models. The water-resistant semi-flexible solar panel is more durable than the traditional aluminum and glass models. 

Allpowers 100 watts weighs just 4.7 pounds. The combination of lightweight and 30 degrees arching gives you more user flexibility. In terms of durability, this solar panel can withstand 5,400 Pa of snow as well as air resistance of up to 2,400 Pa. While there is no clear mention of warranty, the manufacturers promise their customers an 18-month guarantee and friendly customer service after purchase. 

With Allpowers 100W, you should not connect more than 3 solar panels in parallel while in series you are advised to restrict your connection to 4 solar panels. This can be a huge limitation for anyone planning to set up a large solar system. Another grave setback is the huge price tag slammed on this product. For a small solar setup for an RV, this is still a great choice—if you don’t mind the price. 

Pros

  • Lightweight solar panels
  • Flexibility of up to 30 degrees
  • Manufacturer is offering 18-month friendly customer service
  • Snow and wind resistant

Cons

  • Extremely expensive
  • Restriction on the number of panels that can be stacked together

Newpowa 100 watts – Most durable flexible solar panel

Key features

  • 4.2 pounds weight
  • 19V maximum operating voltage 
  • Bendable up to 248 degrees

Newpowa 100W extremely flexible solar panel is made from Ethylene-Tetra-Fluoro-Ethylene (ETFE) which has high resistance to stain, corrosion-resistant, easy to clean, highly elastic, and has high light transmittance. This is where it gets most of its cool features. It comes with 2ft male and 3ft female cables pre-attached. The presence of 6 metal reinforced mounting homes makes it easy to mount this panel on non-flat surfaces. 

With this flexible solar panel, you don’t have to worry about damage from rain or snow because it has an IP68 rated junction box. Also, it can withstand high wind of up to 2,400 Pa and snow load of up to 5,400 PA. To cap off an already impressive product, the manufacturer is offering a 5-year warranty on material and parts workmanship. Compared to the other flexible solar panels on this list, Newpowa 100 is relatively affordable. 

The maximum operating voltage of this Newpowa solar panel is 19V which is one of the highest among 100W flexible solar panels. So far, all the buyers have had glowing reviews for this product. Nevertheless, don’t expect to get full 100W with this product even on days when the sun is burning high up in the sky. Also, in one instance, the MC4 connector came without pins. Nevertheless, with this product, your peace of mind is guaranteed.

Pros

  • High maximum output voltage
  • Made with ETFE which confers it with glowing properties
  • Lightweight and extremely flexible
  • Junction box is waterproof

Cons

  • Slightly expensive
  • Efficiency may not be as advertised

WindyNation 100 watts – Best lightweight flexible solar panel

Key features

  • 4 pounds weight
  • Bendable up to 30 degrees 
  • 19% solar cell efficiency

WindyNation 100W easily comes to mind when you want to strike a balance between budget and performance. It is one of the most affordable 100W flexible solar panels on the market. Besides the price, this solar panel is also lightweight. It weighs just 4 pounds. The weight combines with its flexible nature to give you great installation flexibility. It also makes moving this panel from one place to another easier. 

Both the solar panel and the junction box are completely waterproof. This makes it suitable for outdoor use in all weather conditions. It has four stainless steel grommet mounting holes on each corner of the panel. However, you can also mount this panel using Velcro or adhesive. An interesting inclusion in this product is a blocking diode in the junction box. It can be used to stop the draining or discharge of the battery at night. 

PV connectors are pre-attached and it also comes with 12 AWG solar cable leads. Thus, it comes ready for installation. The first disappointment with this product is the low overall panel efficiency (approximately 17%). Also, the performance drops to about 80% in 25 years. Nevertheless, the stats are not overly bad when you consider the price. 

Pros

  • Highly affordable
  • Junction box is totally waterproof
  • Offers four stainless steel mounting grommet
  • Comes with a blocking diode to prevent discharge
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Semi-rigid and prone to breakage
  • Low panel efficiency

HQST 100 watts – Best for high optimal operating voltage

Key features

  • 4 pounds weight
  • 21.6V maximum operating voltage 
  • Bendable up to 30 degrees

While the optimal operating voltage of most of the flexible solar panel brands caps at approximately 19V, HQST 100W is able to push that limit to 21.6V. If you are the power-hungry type, this should be a source of excitement. Like other popular brands, the HQST 100W is bendable up to 30 degrees. It is also lightweight at just 4 pounds. Pair these two features together and you will get easy installation and transportation. 

The majority of the flexible solar panels come with 4 stainless steel grommets which are often not enough to hold it down. HQST 100W offers you 6 of those stainless eyelets for more efficient installation. You can also install it with adhesives, silicone glue, and double sticky tapes. The junction box is waterproof and provides protection against low-pressure water jets and environmental particles. 

Notwithstanding all the cool features, this product is still relatively affordable which is a rarity these days. The biggest challenge with HQST is that the protective film is almost glued to the panel making it difficult to take off. Even when you succeed in getting them off, it leaves an ugly residue on the surface. Also, the cables are stiff and angled in such a way that they leave a shadow on the panel. Getting them off the way is a grim task. However, in terms of performance, it is hard to beat. 

Pros

  • Highly affordable
  • Very high maximum operating voltage
  • Lightweight and bendable
  • Waterproof with 6 installation grommet

Cons

  • Protective film is hard to remove
  • Poor packaging often lead to a damaged product on delivery

TP-solar 50 watts – Best cheap flexible solar panel

Key features

  • 4.14 pounds weight
  • 24.2V maximum operating voltage 
  • Bendable up to 30 degrees

The higher the wattage of a solar panel, the higher the price tag. If you are working on a budget or on a small solar power project, the 50-watt panel can suffice. One of the best in this regard is the TP-solar 50 watts panel. Regardless of the small size, it is heavier than some of the 100W flexible solar panels on this list. This is due to the higher quality materials used in the manufacture. It can be wired in series for 24 and 48-volt battery charging. 

According to the manufacturer, this product adopts unique back contact technology and removes electrodes on the solar cell surface. This results in a higher conversion of up to 50%. The panel is made of advanced water-resistant material which is more durable than the glass and aluminum setup of traditional solar panels. 

Other important features of this panel include 4 stainless eyelets at the edges for easy installation. Also, you can affix it to the appropriate surface using double sticky tapes, Velcro, or zip ties. It arrives with 36 inches of 12 AWG solar cable leads and an MC4 compatible connector pre-installed. One of the huge problems with this product is the fragile nature of the plastic retainers on the MC4 connectors. Besides that, the panels are solid and well-made. 

Pros

  • Highly affordable
  • Can be connected in series for charging 24 or 48-volt battery system
  • Back contact technology increases efficiency
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Plastic retainers on the MC4 connectors are fragile
  • Heavier than other models

Renogy 50 watts – Most flexible 50 watts panel for camping

Key features

  • 2.87 pounds weight
  • 18.5V maximum operating voltage 
  • Bendable up to 248 degrees

Regardless of the wattage, Renogy maintains the same standard for all its products. It is highly lightweight at just 2.87 pounds. Like all the other Renogy solar panels, you can bend the Renogy 50 watts up to 248 degrees. For mounting on mobile surfaces like the roof of RVs, the manufacturers recommend the use of silicon structural adhesives on the backside of the panel. However, when mounting on non-mobile surfaces you can make use of the grommets. 

The Renogy 50 watts has an IP68 rating. Thus, it is suitable for use in all types of environments. Through rigorous testing, the manufacturers were able to determine that this solar panel can withstand extreme wind of up to 2,400 Pa and snow load of up to 5,400 Pa. Due to these properties, this solar panel has a wide range of applications including where it is difficult to mount standard solar panels. 

On the downside, Renogy products are often overpriced and the 50 watts solar panel is not an exception. This product will cost you about $100 to get. Also, you may need to hire a professional with this considering the fact that the pre-installed wires on the solar panels are not properly labeled. Wrong connection may lead to reverse polarity and Renogy warranty doesn’t cover damage from reverse polarity. However, when you get it right, it glows. 

Pros

  • Highly flexible
  • Flexible installation options
  • Extremely lightweight makes transportation easier
  • High waterproof rating

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Poor instruction manual

Buying Guide for the Best Flexible Solar Panels

When buying a flexible solar panel, there are a number of features that you need to consider—depending on your intent. Therefore, it is OK to skip some of these features when making your final decision. However, some of the features are so vital that they cannot be ignored. If for any reason, you don’t want to conform to our list and will like to make your own research, our guide should help you to make the best choice. 

Wattage (Power)

The first thing that you need to consider when shopping for a solar panel is the power output (wattage). Ideally, the higher the wattage, the more energy the solar panel should be able to produce from the sun. However, in the real sense, it often doesn’t work that way. The efficiency of the solar cells comes to play. Regardless, 100W solar panels should be able to produce more energy than 50W solar panels. 

Solar Cell Technology (Efficiency)

Solar cell technology will play a major role in the efficiency of your solar panels. The majority of the solar panels on the market are made of crystalline silicon technology. This can be monocrystalline or polycrystalline. The monocrystalline are usually more efficient in converting solar energy to electricity compared to polycrystalline. However, ETFE technology is becoming increasingly popular—especially for flexible solar panels. They allow the penetration of maximum solar energy through the panels. 

Installation

Unlike rigid solar panels, you have varying installation options with flexible solar panels. You can either install it using grommets or glue it to the desired surface. Taping to the surface is usually advised for those that want to use their panels on mobile surfaces like motorhomes. Panels with 6 stainless installation eyelets tend to hold better than those with four eyelets. 

Durability

ETFE plastics are used in high-end products and are more durable than those made with PTE and PET materials. Likewise, solar panels made with thin-film technology are usually less durable than crystalline solar panels. Ultimately, the durability of your solar panel will depend on the quality of the material used in the manufacture. 

Warranty

Solar panel technologies are still pretty unstable. That is why it is easy to come across flexible solar panel reviews talking about products that were dead on arrival or panels that are not producing the amount of energy that they should. So, it is crucial to go for products with a good warranty. It can save you lots of headaches. Some manufacturers offer up to a 5-year warranty on product and material and as much as 25 years on power. 

Flexible vs rigid solar panels

If you focus on price, you will easily fall for rigid solar panels because flexible ones cost nearly twice the price of rigid panels. Rigid solar panels are sturdy and highly durable. It is not surprising that they are massively exploited in large solar farms. They can be installed on super strong brackets that are angled to maximize solar intake. However, one of the biggest flaws with rigid panels is the thought of punching holes on your roof. If not properly sealed, it can lead to water leaks and infrastructural decay. 

For flexible panels, you don’t have to worry about punching holes on your roof. They are lightweight and thin and will not overburden your roof. This makes the ideal choice for RVs. However, their lightweight can become a serious problem in an environment with high wind. There have been reports of panels peeling off the roof of RVs like tissue papers. Therefore, make sure you stick with the best installation option for your flexible solar panel.

Benefits of flexible solar panels

There is a long list of benefits you can get when you choose flexible solar panels over rigid models. Some of these benefits include;

1. Cost

Flexible solar panels are almost twice the price of rigid panels but they make up for this by being easier to install. Since they require minimal installation labor, they can help you to cut down on installation costs. While you may need a heavy-duty roof mounting system for solid panels, you will likely not need that for flexible panels. 

2. Weight

Flexible solar panels weigh 70% less than rigid panels. Thus, they can be successfully mounted on older roofs. For rigid panels, you may need to change your roof and that will definitely shoot up your budget. Also, the lighter weight makes handling and transportation easier. 

3. Versatile

Due to their flexible nature, flexible solar panels can be installed on surfaces where it is impossible to install rigid panels. Thus, they are ideal for curved surfaces like motorhomes and travel trailers.

4. Portable

Flexible solar panels are easier to mount or dismount. The combination of lightweight and bendability makes it easier to carry them along to the campsite and back. Also, it is easier to get optimal sun angle with them without having to purchase expensive angles and brackets. 

Problems with flexible solar panels

When compared to rigid solar panels, flexible solar panels usually have lower efficiency. Therefore, you will need more solar panels to generate an identical amount of energy produced by rigid panels. With limited installation space, this can be a huge barrier. Also, flexible solar panels are usually not the right fit for home rooftops. They work better for RVs, motorhomes, and for camping. Their lower weight makes them ideal for mobile solar projects where a large amount of energy is not required. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are flexible solar panels any good?

Flexible solar panels are great for motorhomes and RVs because of their foldable nature, ultrathin sides, and lightweight. However, they often have lower efficiency compared to classic panels. Also, they may not be the right choice when setting up a rooftop solar project. This is because they usually occupy more space while producing lower energy.  

  • How efficient are flexible solar panels? 

The efficiency of a flexible solar panel will depend on the quality of material used in their production. Therefore, a flexible solar panel made from high-quality material should have an efficiency of 23 to 25%. 

  • Why do flexible solar panels fail?

Flexible solar panels fail more than rigid solar panels, and, it has something to do with overheating. Rigid solar panels usually have a space underneath that allows airflow for cooling. Flexible solar panels, on the other hand, are usually glued to mounting surfaces limiting ventilation. The absence of ventilation spaces often leads to overheating which causes them to fail. 

  • How long do flexible solar panels last?

Compared to rigid solar panels, flexible solar panels don’t last so long. Their life span is usually 15 to 25 years whereas rigid solar panels can last from 25 to 40 years. Also, they become less useful as their power output begins to decline.

Conclusion

Perhaps, the biggest setback that may prevent lots of people from using flexible solar panels is their huge price tag. However, with the constantly evolving technological environment, we are hopeful that their prices will plunge in a few years to come. While you consider your budget, it is important to mention that cheaper products often mean that the manufacturers used less durable materials. Sometimes paying that extra cost becomes a necessity. 

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