Appreciating flexible solar panels

When most people think of solar panels, they imagine the roofs of houses lined with large cells of silicon that collect the sun's light before converting the solar energy into electricity. They're often surprised to learn that some panels are a fraction of the size and can even be rolled up and transported in a backpack. Flexible solar panels have been available for years. But, the technology has improved dramatically. They have become more efficient, lightweight and durable, paving the road for their expanded use in a variety of new applications.

In this article, we'll briefly explain the benefits of using flexible solar panels. You'll discover a few applications that weren't possible as recently as a decade ago. Finally, we'll discuss the cost of investing in such panels.

Benefits of flexible solar panels

The main benefit of these types of panels is their portability. They can be rolled up and stored easily so that transporting them is simple and convenient. This high level of portability makes them perfect for a variety of uses. While flexible solar panels are just as environmentally friendly as residential paneling systems, they can used to provide power to various tools and appliances outside the home. This can be a significant advantage when you're traveling and in need of a dependable and transportable power source.

Potential applications

Our lives are more dependent upon mobile devices than ever before. What's more, our penchant for convenience makes having a reliable source of electricity more than a mere luxury; it's an expectation. Flexible solar panels have become a convenient and affordable solution for providing this electricity. For example, those who do much of their work on laptop computers are intimately familiar with the limitations of laptop batteries. They drain quickly and need to be recharged frequently. A flexible solar panel can provide a constant power source for a laptop.

Similarly, campers and hikers often prefer to have an easy way to generate heat, light and electricity during the evening. Many of them use flexible solar paneling because it's lightweight and can be stored in their backpack while they're walking.

How much do flexible solar panels cost?

The price you can expect to pay for this type of paneling will depend upon your needs. Some panels are small. While they offer extreme portability, their size limits the amount of energy that can be absorbed and stored for later use. Others flexible solar panels are much larger. They require more space during transport, but can provide substantial voltage output. For example, a flexible panel with a 6.5 volt rated output (capable of charging an iPod or cell phone) may cost less than $100. By contrast, a larger flexible panel with a 14 watt output (sufficient for laptops and similar tools) may cost nearly $400.

Looking toward the future

The technology that has facilitated the creation of flexible solar panels continues to expand. The breadth of possible applications for them expands with it. While the recent past has opened the door to a variety of creative uses for these panels, the near future promises greater functionality. This will include lower costs, improved durability and higher rated output that will be available in smaller packages.

Society has increasingly demanded solutions that allow a higher level of flexibility in the way we work and enjoy life. These solar panels will be an important tool that sates that demand.