RV Daily Tips Issue 450. August 15, 2014 | RV Travel
RVing Tip of the Day
Flexible solar panels: worry-free sun power
by Greg Illes
Sometimes it seems like there are only two kinds of RVers: those who have solar systems and those who are going to. For those folks still thinking about if and how to “do solar,” the flexible panel option can be very appealing.
Not widely known — even among the RV solar experts — an American company called Unisolar is making high-quality solar panels using amorphous technology. Amorphous is an extreme contrast to the typical panels we’re all accustomed to, because it is non-crystalline, plastic-backed and flexible with a powerful acrylic-adhesive backing.
The end result is a game-changer for RV solar systems. Standard framed poly-crystalline panels are bulky, rigid and somewhat fragile. They need mounting brackets (read this as “holes in your roof”), and they project off your roof enough to catch on low-hanging tree branches. They often require angling toward the sun for any significant output, and if you forget to stow them before traveling it can totally ruin your day.
Flex panels are the complete opposite. They mount by sticking down to your roof with no holes or drilling. Their height is about one-half inch, and they can’t catch on trees or brush. They are extremely angle-tolerant, and can deliver more than half of their maximum capacity even in partial shade or winter sun. And the most amazing part, you can actually walk on them.
There are some caveats. While the cost per watt is roughly the same for either panel technology (presently about $3 a watt without controller), the area efficiency of the amorphous cell is much less than crystalline. Amorphous panels will take about two to three times the area for the same power; so if you’re trying to get the most watts from your roof, you’ll need crystalline panels for that.
Unisolar has been doing very well with these panels on industrial and commercial metal roofing, so the panels are likely to be available for years to come. Currently, a 128-watt, peel-and-stick flex panel is 15.5 x 216 inches and costs about $200 on Amazon.com.
This is not the first time for this post, but I feel people miss or forget (I do) so here it is again
Posted on August 15, 2014, in The world as i see it as a camper and who loves his country and tagged boondocking, campers, camping, motorhomes, national parks, outback, outdoors, parks, road trips, rv tips, rv's, rving, state parks, travel, traveling, winter camping. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.