Installing solar energy has become one of the most attractive ways to contribute to a green energy future. Thanks to various advances in solar technology, such as bifacial solar modules, solar trackers, and agricultural photovoltaics, solar energy is now more optimized to fit a variety of needs, such as maintaining the aesthetic appeal of buildings. At the same time, they provide green and renewable energy. Flexible solar panels are one such technological evolution that has the potential to penetrate the solar market and take it to the next level.
Flexible solar panels are becoming increasingly popular around the world. Japan, for example, aims to have universal access to flexible solar cells by 2030, and the government plans to support domestic companies to mass produce them and introduce them to public buildings, train stations, schools, and other locations. The plan requires government policies that work with companies and others to build supply networks and encourage the widespread use of solar panels. Companies such as Sekisui Chemical and Toshiba are expected to begin mass production as early as 2025!
What are flexible solar panels?
Flexible solar panels, also known as thin-film solar panels, are a type of solar photovoltaic (PV) module that differs from traditional rigid solar While traditional solar panels are typically made of silicon-based crystalline cells, flexible solar panels use thin layers of light-absorbing materials, such as amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), or copper indium gallium selenide ( CIGS).
Flexible solar panels consist of several layers. The bottom layer, or substrate, is typically a flexible material such as plastic or metal, Above the substrate, a thin layer of semiconductor material absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity. This thin-film semiconductor layer is responsible for the panel’s flexibility and lightweight properties.
Flexible solar panels have several advantages over conventional solar panels. Because they are so thin and flexible, they are lighter and adapt to surface shapes. Most types can be bent by up to 30 degrees, but some very advanced versions can even be bent by up to 248 degrees! Panels can be easily integrated into a variety of surfaces and structures, thus expanding the possibilities for solar power generation. They can be adhered to or attached using adhesives or mounting options designed for flexible panels. This versatility makes them ideal for applications where rigid panels are impractical or visually unattractive.
Second, the lightweight nature of flexible solar panels makes them easier to transport and install. Their lighter weight reduces structural requirements and simplifies the installation process, which is particularly beneficial for mobile or portable solar applications.
Flexible solar panels are versatile
Due to their lightweight, flexible, and adaptable nature, they can be used for a wide range of applications. Some of these are listed below.
Photovoltaic building integration
They can be integrated into building structures such as roofs, walls, and facades to generate electricity as a building material.
Flexible solar panels can be used to power portable electronics such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops while on the go.
Camping and outdoor activities
Generate electricity for camping and outdoor activities, such as powering lights, fans, and cooking appliances.
Generate electricity on small boats, yachts, and other marine vessels to power navigation lights, communication equipment, and other electronic devices.
Generating electricity while driving in electric vehicles.
Military and defense
Powering remote communication equipment, surveillance cameras, and other devices in military and defense applications, for example.
Powering irrigation systems and other equipment in agriculture.
Potential and challenges of flexible solar panels
They are mostly installed in horizontal spaces such as roofs. Mounting them in other suitable locations, such as mounting them on a wall, becomes a challenging and costly affair.
Flexible solar modules are expected to fill the gap and improve existing solar technologies. According to an analysis by Allied Market Research, the global flexible solar panel market is expected to reach $914.07 million by 2030. The global solar market is expected to reach $373.84 billion in 2029. As flexible panels address many of the drawbacks compared to traditional panels, they have the potential to be a game changer in terms of expanding the use of solar energy as well as in terms of the impact of renewable energy consumption.
There is value in flexible solar panels. But if you’re considering investing, it’s important to evaluate your specific requirements, installation constraints, and budget. It may be helpful to consult with a reputable solar installer or supplier, such as Sungold. They can assess your unique situation and help you make an informed decision about the value and suitability of flexible solar panels for your project.