5 Best Flexible Solar Panels for Your Boat or RV
Outfitting your boat or RV with a solar panel can be one of the best ways to ensure you never run out of power. And there’s never been a better time to consider adding solar power to your home or vehicle. Not only is the technology getting better all the time, but with the Inflation Reduction Act, you may be able to get a refund on part of your installation costs! But with so many options available, it can be hard to decide which flexible solar panels are right for your power needs.
Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you and put together a list of the 5 best flexible 100w solar panels available in 2023. See our top 3 picks here. And if you’d like to read more about them, then keep reading our roundup below.
5 Best Flexible Solar Panels
BougeRV Yuma 100W
If you’re looking for flexibility in a flexible solar panel, then look no further than the BougeRV Yuma 100W! That’s why the Yuma series panels are our topic pic in the flexible solar category. These solar panels boast a full 360° bend! In addition, they can flex in either direction! Need to fit an S-curve surface? No problem. These panels are the only ones in our lineup that utilize the Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) solar cells.
This solar cell technology is an example of a thin-film flexible solar panel, where the solar cells are created directly on a flexible material, accounting for its best-in-class flexible panel. In addition, these panels are much more durable than the more common silicone cells. You can even walk directly on top of them if you need to (although we wouldn’t make a habit of it). Even if they do get damaged, the panel will usually continue to function at a reduced capacity. You can mount them just about anywhere using mechanical means or adhesives. And for the ultimate in power portability, they can be rolled up for storage!
The downside? Thin-film solar technology is not as efficient as its monocrystalline silicon counterpart. Coming in at only 16% efficiency you’ll need a little bigger space to generate your 100 watts. About 30% more space in fact than the smallest panel in our list. They also only come with an 18-month limited warranty.
The Yuma 100W is currently priced at $289.99. The Yuma series also comes in a 200W version which is priced at $579.99. These panels are also available in a bundled kit.
BougeRV Yuma 100W
BougeRV Yuma 100W
Renogy Black Division 100W (RSP100DL-36)
Our second choice for flexible solar panels is Renogy’s Black Division 100W Flexible solar panel. This panel is a Passivated Emitter Rear Contact (PERC) monocrystalline silicon-based solar panel, that can flex up to 240°, giving you a huge amount of placement flexibility (pun intended).
A PERC cell has an extra reflective layer below the generating structure that passes unused light back to the generating layer for added efficiency (22%). It’s like a turbocharged solar panel! Its durable construction allows it to withstand high winds and snow.
The panel is constructed using a half-cell design that gives it better shade tolerance. And it uses 9 busbars for higher tolerance to micro-fractures in the silicon base. It comes with one of the best warranties in our roundup with 5 years for materials and workmanship and 25 years for power output.
At the time of this writing, this panel is priced at $189.99 and this series also offers a 200W version priced at $369.99, but we can’t wait to see this line expanded by Renogy.
Renogy does offer other flexible solar panel options with a flexible monocrystalline silicon series in 50W, 100W, and 175W outputs. Renogy also makes a number of kit options if you’re just starting out with solar power.
Renogy Black Division 100W
Renogy Black Division 100W
Alrska 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel (AK-100-36MFE)
Alrska flexible solar panels use industry-standard monocrystalline silicon cells to generate electricity. The construction of Alrska cells uses a back contact configuration that increases the solar cells’ power output. As a result, this flexible panel has the highest efficiency of the group, coming in at an impressive 23%! The best efficiency we’ve seen in a lightweight flexible solar panel.
This panel is also very light, weighing only 3.97 lbs or 1.8 kg. All this means that Alrska is able to squeeze 100W of power out of the smallest panel in our line-up (45.7 x 17.7 in, 1160 x 450 mm). This is why we choose this flexible solar panel as our top pick for small spaces.
We’d love to see Alrska increase the warranty on these panels above the 24 months that it is now.
The Alrska 100W panel’s current regular price is an affordable $159.99. In addition, they offer 150W and 180W versions priced at $223.00 and $269.99, respectively.
Alrska 100 Watt
Alrska 100 Watt
Newpowa 100 Watt Semi-Flexible Solar Panel (NPA100S-12SFM)
Presently priced at just $129.99, the 100W flexible panel from Newpowa is our pick for the budget-conscious installation. This monocrystalline silicone panel has a respectable efficiency rating of 18%.
It’s also very lightweight, weighing just 3.31 lbs (1.5 kg).
While it’s the least expensive option, it is also the least flexible, with a bend rating of 30 degrees.
Newpowa offers a very good 5-year limited warranty on parts and workmanship and a 12-year warranty on 80% power output. Unfortunately, the 100W panel is the only option for flexible solar panels, but since they offer a fairly extensive line of rigid solar panels, we expect this line to be expanded.
Newpowa 100 Watt
Newpowa 100 Watt
Go Power! FLEX-110
The FLEX-110 has an efficiency rating of 21% which allows it to have a 110-watt output from the same size panel as most 100W panels. The cell technology of the FLEX-110 is monocrystalline silicone which means they suffer somewhat in flexibility with a 30-degree bend capability.
However, this panel barely tips the scale weighing only 2.9 lbs (1.35 kg). Durability is on par with other silicon panels on the list, and they come with a reasonable warranty of 5 years.
With a price tag of $370.99, we find the FLEX-110 to be a bit expensive compared to similar flexible solar panel options.
The FLEX Series also comes in 35W, 55W, and 190W options.
Go Power! FLEX-110
Go Power! FLEX-110
All of the solar panels in our roundup have their pros and cons, but we feel that the BougeRV Yuma 100W panel is the best option for most people looking for a flexible solar installation. It’s the most flexible, portable, and durable panel and it has a great warranty.
If you’re looking for a more affordable solar power option, the Newpowa 100 Watt Semi-Flexible Solar Panel is a good choice, or if you need a panel that can withstand more abuse, go with the Alrska 100 Watt Flexible Solar Panel. But for pure style, it’s hard to beat the look of the Renogy Black Division panels.
What are Flexible Solar Panels
Flexible solar panels are made of thin, lightweight materials that can be flexed or rolled up for easy transport and storage. These types of solar panels are often used in portable applications, such as camping and RVs, where space is limited. Flexible solar panels are also becoming increasingly popular for boats since they can be easily mounted on non-flat surfaces.
Finally, flexible solar panels are gaining popularity as a substitute for conventional panels in rooftop applications for homes and businesses, due to their increased installation options.
While flexible panels are not as efficient as traditional silicon-based solar panels, they continue to improve in efficiency and are an important part of the renewable energy landscape.
Types of Flexible Solar Panels
Mono-Crystalline Flexible Solar Panels
These flexible solar panels use mono-crystalline silicon, similar to a rigid conventional solar panel. However, unlike conventional panels that use thick glass to cover the photovoltaic material, these use layers of protective plastic on the solar cells. Substituting durable plastic for glass enables these panels to be somewhat flexible and lightweight.
Thin-film Solar Panels
Thin-film solar panels are composed of thin, flexible sheets of photovoltaic material, silicon or cadmium, sandwiched between a layer of conductive material, aluminum, and a thin layer of glass or plastic in order to create solar cells.
Solar Panel Outputs
Solar panels, being electrical devices, have all sorts of technical specifications that can all seem very confusing. However, flexible solar panels all aim to solve the solar power needs of mobile consumers. This means the majority of them will be 12V systems to match up to existing automotive and marine batteries.
That means the most essential specification most of us will need is the wattage of the solar panel. Watts are just a measurement of electrical power. Most laptops consume around 60 watts for example. Most electronic devices have the number of Watts they require printed directly on them somewhere.
Figuring out the wattage that you need to generate is really a simple matter of looking at the electronics you want to power and adding up the watts.
A 50Ah battery can be charged by a 12V 100W solar panel in about 6 hours. Which is enough power to run your 60W laptop for about 10 hours.
Benefits of Flexible Solar Panels
Reduced Weight and Cost
The main benefit of a flexible solar panel is its reduced weight and cost. Because they are composed of thin, lightweight materials, they are much cheaper to manufacture than traditional silicon solar panels. In addition, their adhesive backing eliminates the need for special mounting equipment, further reducing their cost and making them extremely lightweight.
Increased Installation Flexibility
Flexible solar panels have a huge variety of installation options, including roofs, walls, vehicles, boats, and RVs. Their construction makes them ideal for applications where traditional solar panels would be impractical, such as on curved or uneven surfaces. Flexible solar panels are also widely used for portable solar chargers.
Because they are so thin, flexible solar panels can often be mounted flush with the surface. This makes them far less bulky and obtrusive looking.
Flexible solar panels are ideal for mobile applications since their flush mounting reduces drag on moving vehicles. Because they contour to the surface they don’t interfere as much with the designed aerodynamics of a boat, car, or RV.
Increased efficiency in hot weather
Too much heat can reduce the efficiency of solar panels by 10 to 25 percent. However, flexible solar panels are less affected by heat and do not experience the same reduction in performance in hot weather.
Drawbacks of Flexible Solar Panels
One of the main drawbacks of flexible solar panels is their reduced efficiency. Flexible panels are typically only 10-15% efficient, while traditional rigid solar panels are typically 20-25% efficient.
Flexible solar panels have lower wind and hail ratings than monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels, making them less durable.
Because flexible solar panels are composed of thin sheets of material, they are more susceptible to degradation from UV light and extreme temperatures than traditional solar panels. As a result, they typically have a shorter lifespan than traditional solar panels. Most manufacturers provide a 2-5 year warranty for flexible panels. This warranty will be much shorter than the typical 20-year warranty for a traditional solar panel.
Despite their drawbacks, flexible solar panels continue to be an important part of the renewable energy landscape. As their solar power conversion continues to improve, these panels will become increasingly popular for a variety of applications.
How to Install Flexible Solar Panels
Installing flexible solar panels is a relatively simple process. Of course, you’ll always want to consult the instructions that are particular to the panels you choose. But in general, most of them follow the same basic instructions. The first step is to clean the area where the panels will be installed. This can be done with soap and water or with a commercial cleaning product designed for solar panels.
Once the mounting area is clean, the next step is to apply the adhesive backing to the panel. This can be done by peeling off the backing and applying the panel to the surface. For best results, it is important to apply pressure to the entire panel to ensure good contact between the adhesive and the surface.
Once the panel is in place, the final step is to connect the panel to an inverter. This can be done with a simple plug-and-play kit or with a more complex wiring setup. The inverter will take the DC power from the panels and convert it to AC power that can be used to power your electric devices or to charge a battery.
Flexible solar panels are becoming increasingly efficient and affordable. They can be installed on roofs, walls, vehicles, boats, and RVs. They are also widely used for portable solar chargers. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit nearly any application. And of course, solar power can be an important part of disaster preparedness for everyone.
They are much cheaper to manufacture than traditional solar panels and their adhesive backing eliminates the need for special mounting equipment. This makes them ideal for applications where traditional solar panels would be impractical or aesthetically unpleasing. They even have a reduced carbon footprint due to their lower shipping weight!
No matter which panels you choose, you’ll be assured to get a lot of streamlined renewable solar power, wherever your travels take you.