James Elston

James Elston

Published June 5, 2024

As the UK increasingly turns to renewable energy sources, solar power continues to stand out as a leading solution. However, we’ve come a long way since the introduction of traditional panels.

Flexible solar panels offer a level of versatility and adaptability that traditional rigid panels cannot match. Whether it’s for residential rooftops, commercial spaces or solar-powered vehicles, the potential uses for flexible solar panels are almost unlimited

Let’s delve into the capabilities and advantages of flexible solar panels so that you can embrace a cleaner, more sustainable future.

How Do Flexible Solar Panels Work?

Where standard solar panels are thicker, heavier and more rigid in their construction, flexible solar panels are thinner, easier to install and have a larger variety of applications.

Along with residential and commercial use, flexible solar panels can also be used to generate electricity on boats, power electric vehicles, and are often taken on camping trips.

There are currently two types of flexible solar panels that you can choose from

1. Monocrystalline solar panels

Crystalline silicon solar panels are the most common type of flexible solar panel on the market.

Made with silicon and a number of crystalline photovoltaic solar cells, these solar panels are lightweight and diverse in their use. The fact that the flexible silicon panels are layered between additional protective layers is what makes them durable.

Crystalline solar panels are available in 50 W, 100 W, 200 W and 300 W varieties and offer reasonable efficiency.

2. Thin-film solar panels

Thin-film solar panels are a relatively new technology and are made by printing photovoltaic materials onto a thin surface. Because these panels aren’t made with silicon, they are known to be slightly less durable.

On the plus side, thin-film panels are incredibly flexible. In fact, they can be rolled up and transported for use on the go. It’s this construction that also makes them very lightweight.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Flexible Solar Panels?

Next, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages you should consider before you install flexible solar panels.

Pros

  • Lightweight: The lightweight nature of a flexible solar panel is one of the first reasons why it’s a popular choice. Even though it’s not recommended, flexible panels are easier to install on your own because they’re easier to move around.
  • Flexibility: Flexible panels can easily be bent to fit different structures, including recreational vehicles and boats.
  • Affordability: If you’re looking for an inexpensive solar panel, this is a good option. The average 100 W panel only costs between £150 and £250, which is far less than you would pay for standard solar panels.
  • Versatility: Thanks to their unique construction, flexible panels are easier to install on a range of surfaces that wouldn’t be able to handle the weight of a standard panel. This makes them ideal for a range of other uses, from camping to detached garages.
  • Reduced carbon footprint: Installing flexible solar panels means you can do your part towards the UK Government’s Net Zero goal, while also saving on energy costs.

Cons

  • Efficiency: Most flexible solar panels are only 10% – 15% efficient. This means you would need more panels to generate the same amount of electricity as you could with fewer standard solar panels.
  • Power output: The average thin-film panel only has a power output of about 150 W versus a standard panel, which has a power output of up to 300 W.
  • Warranties: Flexible solar panels are not as resistant to the elements as traditional solar panels, which means warranties tend to be limited, too. Most manufacturers will only offer a warranty of between 1 and 5 years.

What Is the Average Cost of Flexible Solar Panels?

The average cost of flexible solar panels will depend on the power output you opt for. It’s also important to consider the cost of an inverter and charge controllers as well as a mounting system. Overall, here’s what you can expect to pay per panel:

Solar Panel OutputAverage Cost
100W£150 – £250
200W£300 – £500
300W£500 – £800

How Are Flexible Solar Panels Used In Residential and Commercial Settings?

If you’re considering a solar PV system for your home or commercial space, here is how you can use flexible solar panels.

Residential applications

  1. Rooftop installations: Flexible panels can be installed on curved or irregularly shaped roofs where traditional rigid panels might not fit. They’re also thin and unobtrusive, which ensures they blend in more seamlessly with your home.
  2. Portable solar solutions: If you’re looking for a way to charge small electronic devices when camping or hiking, flexible solar panels are ideal. They can even be integrated into backpacks or clothing to provide on-the-go power for devices.
  3. Off-grid applications: Flexible solar panels can also be used in cabins and on boats to provide reliable off-grid power. These portable flexible panels are great backup power sources during emergencies.
  4. Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV): Lastly, flexible panels can be incorporated into building materials like shingles or walls, providing energy without impacting the aesthetics of your home.

Commercial applications

  1. Large-scale rooftop installations: Ideal for large, flat roofs of warehouses, factories, and commercial buildings, flexible solar panels can cover larger areas and adapt to different roof shapes.
  2. Transportation: Flexible solar panels can be integrated into the roofs of electric vehicles to extend their range and provide additional power.
  3. Temporary structures and events: If you’re planning an event, flexible solar panels can provide temporary, portable power solutions for lighting, sound systems, and other equipment. They can also be used to power tools and equipment in remote or temporary construction sites.
  4. Agricultural applications: Flexible panels can be installed on greenhouse roofs to generate power while still allowing enough light to pass through for plant growth. Powering remote irrigation systems where grid power is unavailable is also an option.
  5. Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV): As with residential applications, these solar panels can be worked into building designs for a more subtle approach to solar power. They’re also often added to parking lots to create solar canopies.

FAQs

Can flexible solar panels be integrated with existing solar power systems?

Yes, flexible solar panels can be integrated with existing solar power systems, but it is important to ensure compatibility with your system’s inverter and battery setup.

Can flexible solar panels be installed on a roof?

Flexible solar panels can be installed on almost any surface, including the roof of your home or commercial building. One of the main appeals of these panels is that they’re ideal for roofs that don’t have a standard shape and wouldn’t be able to accommodate standard solar panels.

What is the lifespan of flexible solar panels?

Most flexible solar panels have a lifespan of around 10 years, whereas standard solar panels have a lifespan of up to 25 years. If the panels are maintained, you can extend their lifespan for as long as possible, but keep in mind that environmental elements can affect flexible solar panels more harshly than traditional panels.

Final Thoughts 

Even though flexible solar panels aren’t as efficient as traditional solar panels, there is a range of other benefits to consider.

If you want to add solar capabilities to unusually shaped structures or you’re looking for backup power solutions to use on the go, flexible solar panels are an excellent option to consider. The fact that they’re more affordable is an added bonus.

If you need further advice and guidance, contact Eco Happy today for a quotation.

James Elston

James Elston

Boiler Expert


James Elston is the top boiler replacement and heating expert at Eco Happy. He has over 20 years of experience in the industry, focusing on Gas Safe boiler installations and offering home-heating and energy-saving solutions to homeowners across the UK. From sourcing the most energy-efficient combi boiler to providing specialist heating advice, James ensures that Eco Happy maintains the highest standards and best customer service.

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