Solar energy is a resource that is available everywhere across the day.
Even though most homeowners and commercial owners use solar panels to provide power to their electrical installations, the truth is that these modules were not originally intended for such a purpose.
When solar panels were starting in the commercial sector, the first application that came out was for off-grid purposes.
The possibility of having a clean generator source of energy where there was no power grid available was extremely attractive for many people that lived off-grid.
Campers, boondockers and essentially, people that live in remote areas, saw these devices as a valuable resource and despite the costs not being cheap, they became popular.
Today, solar panels are widely used in residential, commercial and utility-scale for grid-tied projects, but the off-grid market is not left behind.
The off-grid market has grown into what is commonly known as portable solar panel technology.
Here we take a look at some applications.
1. Solar for Camping
These products are generally associated with solar kits that include a single or pair of modules that will reach the 100W-200W power output range and that have an important characteristic - portability.
For instance, the solar kits for camping are generally composed of the so-called foldable solar panels.
These modules are basically split into two parts and when it’s time to set up the kit, all that needs to be done is to open a suitcase and unfold the solar panels to place them facing the sun.
These kits also include a charge controller (PWM or MPPT type) typically of 10 A that can be used to charge lead-acid batteries (AGM, GEL, flooded) that are often used for outdoor experiences.
These elements allow anybody who enjoys spending time in the wild to have a reliable source of power from batteries and the sun, to charge smartphones, laptops, lanterns, LED lights and more.
2. Solar Chargers
Another common type of portable solar panel is the so-called solar chargers.
These devices consist of a small power size solar panel with high-efficiency that has a cover and can be easily stored in a backpack.
The purpose of these devices is mainly to charge cell-phones and tablets since the power output provided is not enough to supply bigger loads.
3. Solar for RVs
Portable solar panels are also widely used for RVs since these vehicles are generally on the move.
Even though they can be connected to shore power (grid) in camping stations, the possibility of going on a trip and having a reliable portable energy source to supply electrical loads such as fans, refrigerators, laptops, microwaves, TVs, smartphones and more, is a very interesting application for many campers.
In this case, the portable solar panels are fixed permanently to the roof of the RV and with the available space on typical RVs, up to 6-7 solar panels of 100 W could be placed to power many appliances inside the vehicle.
A small variant of this type of solar system is referred to as the flexible solar panel.
Flexible solar panels are monocrystalline or thin-film technologies that are as thin as a thread and can be easily attached to the rooftop surface of the RV or trailer.
The great advantage with these modules is that efficiency values can be as good as traditional fixed mounted panels, but they can bend up to 30° if needed.
Some RVs have a rounded shape on the rooftop making them unsuitable for traditional mounting.
With flexible solar panels, the owner can have continuous access to solar energy.
Another advantage of this type of module is that they will not require deep perforations on the surface of the rooftop because they have included specific holes that allow them to be attached to the RV using suction cups.
Moreover, the flexible solar panel will be protected against thieves because the modules are so thin that they can only be seen from above.
The top brand in this sector is also one of the top brands in the traditional solar panel market; we are talking about SunPower.
For instance, the SunPower 110W flex module is a remarkable product that offers flexibility and is especially lightweight (only 2 kg) with an efficiency over 20%, designed with the same Maxeon technology that regular solar panels from SunPower use.
The only detail changed with these modules is that there is a reduction in PV warranty. On the performance warranty, it is 5 years at 80%.
The portable solar panel market is extensive and there are many brands that are not regularly mentioned in traditional solar panel technologies.
The market also covers companies that offer power stations that are charged using solar energy such as Goal Zero or Go Power and other companies that offer portable solar charger solutions to adventurous people.
If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!
Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.
Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.
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