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Old 10-28-2016, 10:45 AM   #1
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Flexible Solar Panels

I just came across these 120 watt semi-flexible solar panels at Solar Boulevard. They weigh in at about 8 lbs (not definitive on the website) and measure 46x21 They are selling for $119.

I know they can be roof mounted, at least they are photographed as such. Like anything I know there are issues with doing so. That is not what I am interested in, I want to figure out a way to use them as a portable panel. The weight of 8 lbs vs 45 lbs is very attractive.

The flex shown on the attached image is about their maximum.

Storage and durability seem like the issues. Am I just getting too anxious on technology?
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File Type: jpg Flexible Panel.jpg (34.7 KB, 13 views)
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Old 10-28-2016, 11:10 AM   #2
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While they are improving, the issue with roof mounting is heat. If you rack them up so they have good airflow underneath then good to go, but might as well go with regular panels then. I believe Technomada uses thes on a portable rack they built for deployment when needed.
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Old 10-28-2016, 12:11 PM   #3
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Who or what is Technomada?
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Old 10-28-2016, 12:36 PM   #4
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Technomadia | Adventures in Nomadic Serendipity
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Old 10-28-2016, 12:43 PM   #5
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Looking at that picture of the flexible panel, it seems to me that if you use that feature, then parts of the panel will not be at the optimum angle for the sun.
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Old 10-28-2016, 12:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post

I want to figure out a way to use them as a portable panel. The weight of 8 lbs vs 45 lbs is very attractive.
That's a good price. I've been looking at them and I'm going to get one for use as a portable panel.

A friend with a boat got two last summer. He didn't want to permanently mount them. He wanted to stow them when not needed and put them out when needed.

He took 1/16" x 1" x 1" aluminum angle and made a lightweight frame which then fits into a bracket. I also intend to make a lightweight frame since having them bendable isn't a requirement for me.

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Old 10-28-2016, 01:19 PM   #7
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As a portable panel, the ability to bend a bit seems to me to be worth nothing, and best performance would be when using it held flat (as baglo mentioned). That means that Ron's plan for a lightweight (and relatively rigid) frame makes sense to me. The problem is then storing them without damage.

Paul, where would you be planning to store the panel? That would determine how much protection would be required, and what type of frame would be workable.
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Old 10-28-2016, 02:14 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
As a portable panel, the ability to bend a bit seems to me to be worth nothing, and best performance would be when using it held flat (as baglo mentioned). That means that Ron's plan for a lightweight (and relatively rigid) frame makes sense to me. The problem is then storing them without damage.

Paul, where would you be planning to store the panel? That would determine how much protection would be required, and what type of frame would be workable.
One interesting use of the flexible panels was on the front of a Lil Snoozy. Unfortunately, they are behind the tree in this image, but you can see how they were mounted.
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Old 10-28-2016, 02:50 PM   #9
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Go Power! Flexible Mono Crystalline Solar Kit

I know thread was about using the flexible as portables...but the link above shows an install on an RV so it might give input as to how they are attached and wired.
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Old 10-28-2016, 06:29 PM   #10
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The problem is then storing them without damage.

Paul, where would you be planning to store the panel? That would determine how much protection would be required, and what type of frame would be workable.
There are times when I remove my swiveling tilting panel from the trailer. I made up a lightweight cover to protect it when it's being carried in the back of the truck. Doesn't weight much, just 1/8" plywood.

I'll do the same when I get a flexible panel. Although my friend gave his a durability test. He dropped a cordless drill on it. Very slight mark and the panel still works fine.

I'm thinking that a flexible panel is going to be the one that gets hoisted up in the air on the swivel mount, so much lighter than my current panel which will become my portable panel.

Ron
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File Type: jpg IMGP0010_resize.jpg (183.3 KB, 13 views)
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Old 10-28-2016, 07:04 PM   #11
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There are times when I remove my swiveling tilting panel from the trailer. I made up a lightweight cover to protect it when it's being carried in the back of the truck. Doesn't weight much, just 1/8" plywood.

I'll do the same when I get a flexible panel. Although my friend gave his a durability test. He dropped a cordless drill on it. Very slight mark and the panel still works fine.

I'm thinking that a flexible panel is going to be the one that gets hoisted up in the air on the swivel mount, so much lighter than my current panel which will become my portable panel.

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Old 10-28-2016, 07:09 PM   #12
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I just came across these 120 watt semi-flexible solar panels at Solar Boulevard. They weigh in at about 8 lbs (not definitive on the website) and measure 46x21 They are selling for $119.

I know they can be roof mounted, at least they are photographed as such. Like anything I know there are issues with doing so. That is not what I am interested in, I want to figure out a way to use them as a portable panel. The weight of 8 lbs vs 45 lbs is very attractive.

The flex shown on the attached image is about their maximum.

Storage and durability seem like the issues. Am I just getting too anxious on technology?
from the website
"1. This solar panels can be damaged by sharp objects"
while it may not be sharp, wonder how it holds up to a hail storm?
It would also be interesting to see some temp measurements on the backside in full sun.
seems like a good price for a flexible panel...
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Old 10-28-2016, 07:51 PM   #13
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I couldn't find anything that talks about heat on the back of the panel, but there are folks out there with them glued to their roof (no Escapes that I know of) and I've not read of problems. For $100 it might be worth picking one up just to experiment with.
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Old 10-28-2016, 08:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
As a portable panel, the ability to bend a bit seems to me to be worth nothing, and best performance would be when using it held flat (as baglo mentioned). That means that Ron's plan for a lightweight (and relatively rigid) frame makes sense to me. The problem is then storing them without damage.

Paul, where would you be planning to store the panel? That would determine how much protection would be required, and what type of frame would be workable.
On my 21 I thought I could put the flexible panel under the mattress, on my wife's side of course.

On a serious note, the panel is probably not flat enough for that. Besides having an unhappy camper.

I was thinking of storing the panel in a canvas or vinyl sleeve suspended under the bed. The width and length are correct for the top side opening, not being familiar with them I worry about connectors and cables that are attached and how much space they take.

A pain to take out and worse to put back, almost a two person job. It is not something you would have to do every day as it is not needed at every campsite and it can stay outside in the elements. The frame would have to be removable and have legs. I have fashioned legs for my current foldable panel using PVC. I made them adjustable depending on the latitude and angle of the sun. I am trying to grasp what consistency the flexible panels are. Perhaps PVC pipe with a slot that they would slide into?
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File Type: jpg Solar Panel Storage.jpg (183.9 KB, 10 views)
File Type: jpg Panel Leg.jpg (122.7 KB, 10 views)
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Old 10-28-2016, 08:10 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
I just came across these 120 watt semi-flexible solar panels at Solar Boulevard. They weigh in at about 8 lbs (not definitive on the website) and measure 46x21 They are selling for $119.
That is a good price, they are $250 CAD here in town, though I have to wonder what shipping would be to Canada.

I too have never heard of a heat problem with gluing down these panels, it is done all the time. I am considering doing it on my 5.0. I like the fact that they don't stick out as much as the ones Escape uses.

The flex panels are not near as tough as they lack the glass surface for protection, but this would not be much of an issue with portable units.
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Old 10-28-2016, 08:32 PM   #16
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There are full-timers out there with all flexible panels glued to their roofs with no problem. Since the roof has considerable mass, I imaging the heat would be readily dispersed in the roof structure.

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I couldn't find anything that talks about heat on the back of the panel, but there are folks out there with them glued to their roof (no Escapes that I know of) and I've not read of problems. For $100 it might be worth picking one up just to experiment with.
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Old 10-28-2016, 09:08 PM   #17
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There is quite a bit of information out there on the heat issues and more when glued to a roof of an RV. The best is from Greg Holder the owner of AM Solar a very respected RV solar source. He installed flex panels to test on his personal motorhome.
This was his conlusion:
"Given that they scratch easily, have reduced output at off angles of the Sun, cupping cells from high heat and a limited 10 year warranty. We consider them "Not Ready for Prime Time". We are working on ways to address these problems and will offer them for sale when we have something we can heartily recommend.

Until then ... Buyer Beware!"

To date, AM Solar has still not offered flexible panels in the published product line since he started personally testing them that I'm aware of. They will work OK, and are great for some applications, but they do have performance, longevity, cupping, yellowing, and scratching issues in comparison with the glass panels.
AM Solar has always been very responsive to my inquiries about products, I'm sure an email or call would get the latest information on the state of flex panel offerings.
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Old 10-28-2016, 09:14 PM   #18
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I was thinking of storing the panel in a canvas or vinyl sleeve suspended under the bed.
That sounds like a good location to me.
How about a thin plywood (1/8") panel hinged onto the bottom of the opening bed base panel? Open it, lay the panel in, latch it to the bed base. The plywood would protect the panel while in storage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudge_brownie View Post
The frame would have to be removable and have legs.
I wouldn't want to separate the panel from the frame, because I would want the frame to protect the panel from bending. Of course the legs would need to fold neatly or detach.
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Old 10-28-2016, 10:03 PM   #19
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160 watt folder

I notice the same site offers a 160 watt folding panel for $179. I would probably chuck the controller or use it at my sugar house. Anyone know of cheaper 160 watt folders?
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Old 10-28-2016, 10:23 PM   #20
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There is quite a bit of information out there on the heat issues and more when glued to a roof of an RV. The best is from Greg Holder the owner of AM Solar a very respected RV solar source. He installed flex panels to test on his personal motorhome.
This was his conlusion:
"Given that they scratch easily, have reduced output at off angles of the Sun, cupping cells from high heat and a limited 10 year warranty. We consider them "Not Ready for Prime Time". We are working on ways to address these problems and will offer them for sale when we have something we can heartily recommend.

Until then ... Buyer Beware!"

To date, AM Solar has still not offered flexible panels in the published product line since he started personally testing them that I'm aware of. They will work OK, and are great for some applications, but they do have performance, longevity, cupping, yellowing, and scratching issues in comparison with the glass panels.
AM Solar has always been very responsive to my inquiries about products, I'm sure an email or call would get the latest information on the state of flex panel offerings.
If they did last anywhere near 10 years, I would be satisfied. No doubt by then solar power and storage will have made huge changes, and better, less expensive products will be available to replace the old.
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