The Best Flexible Solar Panels of 2021: Our Honest and Unbiased Review
Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
2nd Best Choice
Renogy 175 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
3rd Best Choice
SunPower 110 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
Packing for a 10-day camping trip. As if the smartphone isn't enough, somehow I decided that I also need my Kindle, and of course my full-sized DSLR.
But these handy gadgets need charging every day. A fuel generator is out of option. Not only are they bulky but also noisy and have low efficiency.
So, how do I charge all these gadgets? I use flexible solar panels you can literally roll up and take with you wherever you go.
Below, I review 13 of the best flexible solar panels to help you decide which one you should get.
The solar solution is no more expensive than other electricity-generating methods. The solar world has proven in recent years that it can compete with oil and natural gas when it comes to electricity production.
Oded Rozenberg, CEO of Apollo Power
Our Top 13 Flexible Solar Panels
1. Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
After realizing how durable and bendable it is, I’ve chosen this compact monocrystalline solar panel to make a DIY solar generator kit.
Whether you have a boat, RV, this flexible powerhouse is only 1/10” thick and fits seamlessly on every surface like a rug.
Renogy 100 Watt is also waterproof and extremely durable. I’ve had it working flawlessly in rain and snow, and even had to remove branches and bird droppings, without any visible damage to the flexible panel.
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2. Renogy 175 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Together with its smaller brother, Renogy 175 Watt is hands down the most flexible solar panel on the list.
I use a pair of these monocrystalline solar modules if I need a bit more power and although these are a bit larger than most panels I’m reviewing here, they fit nicely on the RV roof.
In my experience, these solar panels have excellent efficiency, even on overcast days. Once I tried charging through the windshield, and after I came from work, the 42000mAh portable battery in my van was fully charged.
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3. SunPower 110 Watt Flexible Solar Panel
Don’t let the small creases and indentations on the solar panel surface turn you away from these products. This SunPower flexible solar panel is a small but rugged ultralight panel that bends up to 30 degrees and folds easily after use.
Depending on available sunlight, mine delivered anything between 50 and 100 watts. However, even in the shade, it gave me enough juice to power my 12V fridge.
On the downside, if you’re looking for a monocrystalline solar panel for your saltwater boat, you may want to look elsewhere.
4. Uni-Solar 136 Watt 24 Volt Flexible Solar Panel
Unlike the other products on this list, this is a thin-film solar panel, which means it’s more flexible than others but at the cost of efficiency.
I knew it was almost 18 inches long, but I was surprised at how heavy it was. Too heavy for only 136-watt output if you ask me.
Still, this solar panel has its use. It’s a peel & stick installation, which means anyone can do it and it adheres beautifully to metal roofs. Mine is firmly stuck and isn’t going anywhere.
5. Giaride 100W Flexible Solar Panel
Giaride 100W is both dust- and water-resistant so I’m not afraid to take it into the wild, while the 30 degrees curvature allows me to set it up on less-than-ideal surfaces with no trouble.
However, I don’t recommend this monocrystalline solar panel for use near saltwater, as the grommets on mine started rusting after only a few months in.
6. ALLPOWERS 100W Flexible Solar Panel
This solar panel has a frameless design that allows me to carry it easily and store it when I don’t need it.
Mine was delivered with a sort of transparent laminate protection, similar to what they use on smartphone screens.
On the other hand, the plastic envelope on this solar module isn't the best quality and after a year of use, it started to show signs of discoloration. I’m afraid it won't last as long as the frontside laminate.
7. Winnewsun 100W Bifacial Flexible Solar Panel 100W
Your mileage may vary, but I managed to capture extra 6-9% of solar power with this one, depending on how reflective the surrounding is.
However, if you plan to stick one to the roof of your RV, it makes no sense to pay extra for a bifacial flexible panel.
8. Rich Solar 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Solar Panel
I loved the non-stick surface of this flexible solar panel. If it gets dusty, the next rain will make it sparkling clean.
The compact size allowed me to put this monocrystalline solar panel even behind the windshield of my parked car and charge a portable 12V battery.
Still, better park the car in the sun, as this solar panel does not handle shade or overcast sky that well.
9. WindyNation 100W 12V Flexible Solar Panel
Apart from water resistance, I like the blocking diode feature on this solar panel, which prevents the connected battery from overcharging.
On the downside, I don’t like the fact that there’s no air gap between the mounting surface and the panel. It gets extra hot even on overcast days. My friend who bought this told me that ut of three panels he originally bought, one shows signs of warping.
10. Genssi 100W Flexible Solar Panel
This is an inexpensive marine-friendly flexible solar panel for your boat or seaside lodge. Genssi 100W got my attention with the aluminum frame which has not rusted a bit so far.
On the other hand, the solar panels came in flimsy packaging and physically damaged. My guess is that connectors were not secured separately but wedged between the two solar panels in the box.
Both of them worked fine one season despite the scratches and dents and the next year, one seemed to have lost its efficiency and delivered only 10 watts.
11. Kingsolar Flexible Solar Panel 100 Watt
With its advanced anti-UV top layer, this flexible solar panel will stay cooler than others in the same price range, so it’s great if you live in areas with a lot of sunny days.
Unfortunately, although advertised as 30 degree-flexible, most users said that the protective layer on this solar module doesn’t stand flexing and has chipped in more than one place.
12. DDY 40W Flexible Solar Panel
This flexible solar panel comes with handy accessories like car battery clams, cigarette lighter plug, and twin USB ports. However, the power rating of only 40 watts keeps it out of the competition with the rest.
I use this one to charge the car battery and my laptop, but I can't recommend it as the go-to panel due to quality issues and low power.
13. SUAOKI 100W Flexible Solar Panel
After having it tested for two weeks or so, I reassigned this solar panel to my emergency/natural disaster kit, as it already started warping under the sun.
The protection laminate, which is one of the selling points for this panel, has flaked after mild flexing.
Although it costs twice as many rigid panels, the overall quality doesn't justify the price. The solar cells are exposed on the underside, and I hope the metal connectors don’t corrode too quickly.
Things To Consider Before Buying A Flexible Solar Panel
This is the most important feature when choosing the right solar panel. The higher the wattage, the more devices you can plug in, and for a longer period of time.
For example, a 100-watt flexible solar panel is often used on boats, while 200-300-watt products are used on RVs or off-grid shacks.
To meet their solar power needs, users often connect several solar panels to get the combined wattage they want. The solar panel wattage is directly proportional to its cost.
The solar panel durability depends on the materials used for the solar panel and framing. Certain types of resilient plastic are used to protect solar cells from dust and moisture.
For example, ETFE plastic is a standard in high-end products and provides better durability and light transmission than cheaper PET and PTE materials. Also, keep in mind that crystalline solar panels are considered tougher than solar panels made with thin-film technology.
Leading manufacturers also make their panels water-resistant to be safely used in marine environments.
There are two solar cell technologies that dominate the flexible solar panel market: crystalline silicon and thin-film.
The properties of the panels are such that there are really few limitations in terms of light source. And the fact that we are dealing with an emerging technology, means we will be able to expand the utility of the panels as we go forward.
Shashank Priya, Associate Vice President for Research, The Penn State College
Unlike their rigid counterparts, you can easily install almost any kind of flexible solar panel yourself. Some even come with self-adhesive tapes or velcro, which makes the installation a no-brainer.
Still, if more methods are available, look for a company that provides a detailed installation guide. A company that invests in a quality manual is often the one that trusts the quality of its product.
Due to their bendable materials and portability, flexible solar panels can never reach the service life of their quality rooftop counterparts. You can use them for a variety of applications, but they will never last as long as rigid aluminum and glass solar panels.
This is why you should always look for panels with the longest lifespan.
How to know this? Choose brands that offer at least a 5-year warranty on materials.
What Are Flexible Solar Panels?
Flexible solar panels are bendable, portable solar modules that you can use outdoors, on cars and RVs, boats, and off-grid cabins.
They are lightweight and versatile, so you can easily transport and deploy them as you go. Some thin-film solar panels even roll and fold.
This flexibility makes this type of solar panel more durable than standard ones, while the curved surface gives better performance in low-light conditions.
The durability is important, as they need to perform off-grid in various elements, like rain, snow, and dust, and withstand sudden changes of temperature.
Compared to rigid silicon-based solar panels, flexible solar panels have lower efficiency, but their many advantages make up for that.
The beauty of this is that you could put solar cells directly on plastic, which has unlimited flexibility. This opens up all sorts of new applications, like putting solar cells on clothing to power LEDs, radios or small computer processors.
Janke J. Dittmer, Post-Graduate Fellow in Chemistry at The University of California, Berkeley
They are made using printing machines that apply a roll-to-roll method, allowing for the mass production of all shapes, sizes, and wattages.
The manufacturing process of flexible panels is also more affordable than the technology of conventional solar panels.
Types Of Flexible Solar Panels
The two types of solar technology that are mostly used for flexible solar panels are crystalline silicon and thin-film solar panels.
Crystalline Flexible Solar Panels
You can recognize these panels by the rounded solar cells’ angles and dark monochromatic appearance.
These are made with the same silicon materials as conventional rigid panels. This type of solar module consists of many photovoltaic solar cells that are sliced to a thickness of a few micrometers, so allow them to be flexible up to 30 degrees.
Unlike rigid panels that use thick glass, flexible solar panels in crystalline silicon technology use protective layers made of durable plastic that allows a degree of flexibility.
Thin-film Flexible Solar Panels
Usually made as Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide (CIGS) modules, thin-film solar panels are the cheapest flexible panels on the market.
With this technology, the photovoltaic material is printed on a thin surface.
They need much less material for the manufacture but are incredibly flexible, so you can roll them up for storage and easily pack them for hikes or camping trips.
On the downside, without the protection of silicon, these panels are far less durable than their crystalline counterparts.
Benefits Of Flexible Solar Panels
Size And Weight
A flexible solar panel is always going to be thinner and lighter than a standard rigid panel of the same size. For example, a 100W flexible panel is going to be about 70% lighter and 95% thinner than a conventional rooftop panel.
This is why you can use them on surfaces that otherwise wouldn't be able to bear the weight of a traditional solar panel.
A 100-watt flexible solar panel is often used on boats, while 200-300-watt products are used on RVs or off-grid shacks.
This feature makes flexible modules great for RVs and THOWs (tiny homes on wheels) because they lay flat against the roof and add virtually no load to the vehicle.
Flexible solar modules have many more uses apart from rooftop installations. For example, with personal RVs, solar panels can reduce engine and generator run-time, while reducing air pollution and getting a fast return-on-investment.
If your cabin roof can’t bear the heavy load of conventional solar panels, a lightweight flexible thin-film panel might be a great solution, as even multiple rolls wouldn’t endanger your home’s structural soundness.
Flexible panels come in many shapes and sizes, so they are an excellent solution for less conventional structures like carports or boat canopies. These structures often have curvatures that make the use of conventional panels impractical.
On the other hand, a flat profile of flexible panels allows them to be installed on cars and boats without affecting either aerodynamics or weight.
On the financial side, flexible panels will definitely reduce the installation cost of your solar array. Flexible panels, and especially thin-film variants, require minimum labor to install and are much more portable to handle than typical panels that are heavy and bulky.
If you go with flexible panels, you not only save on transport and handling but also eliminate the need for a heavy-duty roof mounting system.
You can find the best flexible solar panels online for a few hundred dollars and free delivery.
One of the top-selling points for flexible solar panels is the number of installation options they offer. With conventional rooftop panels, you can pretty much bolt them to a surface and that’s it.
The best flexible solar panels, on the other hand, often come with metal grommets on the edges that allow you to secure them to almost any surface at any angle you want. Hang them off the side of your cabin, tie them to the roof, or even hang them from a convenient tree.
If you choose to fix them permanently, since they are so thin, you can easily keep them down with permanent adhesive tape. No need to drill through your vehicle roof.
Although you can technically disconnect and dismount a rigid panel for transport, they are hardly considered portable. On the other hand, you can stack flexible solar panels in storage space and take them out when needed.
You can pack several of them and take them straight to a campsite, lay them on the ground, or hang them from your tent roof or a rack.
This way you can fix them to meet the sun’s rays at the optimal angle and even adjust them throughout the day without having to adjust your shelter or re-park your vehicle.
The last but not the least, flexible solar panels are, well, more flexible than conventional ones. While this sounds obvious, keep in mind that flexibility does not only apply to their ability to bend 30 degrees or more but also more flexibility in how to use them.
While traditional panels need a heavy-duty framework and a permanent mounting solution, flexible solars have a variety of mounting solutions, none of which requires technical knowledge or heavy lifting.
They can be placed on the ground, on a curving roof, strapped to a side of a tent, and eventually, easily put away when you’re ready to move.
How Do You Mount A Flexible Solar Panel?
There are several ways you can mount a flexible solar panel, but the two most common ones are by using either a mounting rack or an adhesive.
Using A Rack Mount
Make sure to gather all the parts you need for the mounting. This includes the arms, the mount, the screws and other moving parts, and finally the manual.
Flip the solar panel to its back and connect the arm bracket to it using screws. Make sure the screws are tight on both sides. Place lock washers to ensure the arm brackets fit properly. Then, the mount goes between the arm brackets and screws using the hex and nuts that came with the kit.
When you’ve assembled the mount, place it at the back of the rig on your RV using screws. Once the hex bolts and washers are in place, tighten them using the screwdriver and wrench.
Find the right angle. While this sounds easy, keep in mind that you'll be able to squeeze the maximum power out of your solar panel only if you take in the variables such as the placement of the panels on your RV, your location, the sun’s direction throughout the day, etc.
Connect the equipment. Now, most manufacturers use MC4 connectors, so anyone can connect the junction box and the battery. Still, there are different ways of doing this, so best stick to your manual’s specifics and follow them to avoid damaging your panel and the equipment.
A 100W flexible panel is going to be about 70% lighter and 95% thinner than a conventional rooftop panel.
Using An Adhesive
Gluing the solar panel directly to the roof of your RV or boat often creates an overheating problem. Also, heating and cooling may cause it to crack as the roof and the panel have different expansion coefficients. This is why this method is the best one I’ve tried.
Make a sandwich of thin aluminum sheets and polyethylene, of the same dimensions as the back of your panel.
Glue the panel to the aluminum sandwich using a marine grade adhesive.
Glue the whole unit to a twin-wall polycarbonate roofing product with about an 8mm air gap and then glue it to the roof of your RV using a polycarbonate-friendly adhesive.
This way the sandwich construction will act as a buffer for the expansion differences, while keeping the solar panel itself cooler, allowing it to work at its peak efficiency.
If you prefer to watch rather than read instructions, here's a great video that shows you how to install a flexible panel on an RV:
How Do You Clean Flexible Solar Panels?
The best flexible solar panels with a polymer top coating are pretty much self-cleaning, as the next rain will wash away any dust and debris. However, there are situations when your panels will get soiled by bird droppings or tree sap so you need to clean them yourself. Here’s how to do it:
Check for stain deposits on your panel and try to remove them with fresh water. This will remove dust, leaves, and even some bird droppings that reduce the efficiency of your portable solar panel.
For more persistent stains and grease, you need to use neutral soap and water. Make sure not to use any aggressive cleaners. Apply the soap and scrub carefully without using the abrasive side. You can also use denatured alcohol to remove grease.
Use a gentle brush to remove the buildup from the corners. Avoid using a pressure washer which can damage your panels.
If you allow contaminants to build up over time, or see traces of oxidation, you may have to polish the panel. Use either ReJex or Novus brand polish, the latter of which will also remove fine scratches. Always polish the panels by hand, as a power polish may burn the surface with too much friction.
When your panel is clean and dry, apply a coat of a plastic protectorate, such as Plexus or Novus Plastic Cleaner.
Keep in mind that dirty flexible solar panels can lose 20% of their power output, and this comes straight from the Solar Energy Power Association.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory sets the figure even higher, at 25%.
Yes, flexible solar panels are good because they can be shaped to fit different structures, so they fit many types of solar projects. They are also lightweight which makes them easy to transport and deploy as needed.
Yes, you can walk on certain types of monocrystalline solar and thin-film panels. Monocrystalline solar panels that have a strong aluminum backing and extra-thick ETFE laminate layer are safe for walking, as are many types of super-flexible thin-film panels. Still, always check your products’ specifications.
Yes, flexible solar panels get hot, especially if you install them onto the metal roof of your RV or an off-grid cabin. Excessive heat reduces their lifespan and also makes them less efficient. This is why you should consider using a mounting rack or gluing them onto a raised aluminum sandwich plate.
You can attach a flexible solar panel to an RV roof either by using a raised mount or gluing it to the roof directly. In the second case, you should put aluminum and polyethylene sheets between the solar panel and the roof to reduce the overheating.
Flexible solar panels usually come with several options for fixing. Most have metal grommets in their corners, allowing you to rig them to a frame or roof side. Some monocrystalline solar panels and all thin-film have peel & stick backsides which allow you to paste them directly.
Our Recommended Flexible Solar Panel
If you’re looking for one flexible panel that would give you your money’s worth when it comes to solar power, then you should really consider the Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel.
In my opinion, this flexible panel takes the best of both crystalline and thin-film products because of its outstanding conversion efficiency, which means you can effectively use it for several hours more during the day.
Also, unlike some products on the list that are only partially-weather-resistant, this one is impervious to the elements. I’ve used it in the rain, during a strong wind, and even while bivouac-camping in the snow.
Whether you want the best flexible solar panel for your RV, boat, or one to go camping with, I recommend you get the Renogy 100 Watt.
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Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Our # 1 Flexible Solar Panel
Nikola uses his background in electrical engineering to break down complex sustainability topics for GreenCitizen’s readers. He is a firm believer in environmental conservation, which he practices daily through recycling and home-grown food. He enjoys hiking, engaging in white-water sports, and collecting pocket knives.