Portable solar: Let’s go camping!
Solar panels weren’t always for the business and residential sectors, originally solar panels were used for off-grid purposes. And now, there is a growing market for portable solar panel technology to service campers and people in remote areas.
Solar panels started out as portable, as 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 use.
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 in remote areas and campers.
Today, solar panels are widely used in residential, business and utility-scale for grid-tied projects, but the off-grid market is not left behind. In fact, it has grown into what is commonly known as portable solar panel technology.
Let’s take a look at some applications:
1. Portable 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 foldable solar panels.
These modules are basically split into two parts and when it’s time to set up, 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 outdoors to have a reliable source of power from batteries and the sun, to charge smartphones, laptops, lanterns, LED lights and more.
2. Portable solar chargers
Another common type of portable solar panel is 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 mobile-phones and tablets since the power output provided is not enough to supply bigger loads.
3. Portable 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 campgrounds, 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 ideal 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. The flexible solar panel is also great because the modules are so thin that they can only be seen from above.
The portable solar panel market is extensive and there are many brands that are not regularly mentioned in traditional solar panel technologies.
Brands such as Renogy, HQST, Allpowers, Acopower, Eco-worthy, Suaoki or Komaes are some of the brands that are involved in the manufacture and design of portable solar panels.
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.
For more information visit How Solar Works!
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