How Flexible Solar Panels are Changing the Way We Generate Solar Energy

Highlights :

  • Flexible solar panels are lightweight, more flexible, highly versatile, portable, easier to transport and cheaper to install
How Flexible Solar Panels are Changing the Way We Generate Solar Energy

Installing solar has become one of the most attractive ways to contribute to the green energy future. Thanks to various advancements in solar technology, like bifacial solar modules, solar trackers, agrivoltaics, etc., solar is now more optimized to adapt to various needs, such as maintaining the aesthetic of buildings and more. While 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 increasingly gaining traction worldwide. For instance, Japan aims to popularize the use of flexible solar cells by 2030 with the government planning to support mass production by domestic companies and introduce them at public buildings, train stations, schools and elsewhere. The plan entails the government’s policy of working with companies and others to build supply networks and encourage widespread use of the panels. The companies like Sekisui Chemical and Toshiba are expected to start mass production by as early as 2025!

What are Flexible Solar Panels? How are they Beneficial?

Flexible solar panels, also called thin film solar cells, are second-generation solar cells which are manufactured by layering multiple thin films of photovoltaic material on a metal, glass, or plastic base. As a result of this production process, the final product is significantly thinner than conventional monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels. This characteristic makes them highly versatile and lightweight in comparison to traditional solar panels.

Since they are incredibly thin and highly flexible, they are lighter and adapt to surface shapes. Most types bend up to 30 degrees, but some very advanced versions can even flex for up to 248 degrees!

Unlike conventional panels with sturdy rectangular bodies, flexible solar panels may be supported by a very light construction. The flexible panels can use more locations to generate solar power because they can be affixed to walls at a lower cost.

Furthermore, the layered arrangement maximizes the capacity of each material to absorb light. The major goal of this is to ensure that the cells’ efficacy and efficiency do not deteriorate over time.

Increased Range of Applications

Flexible solar panels are versatile and can be used in a wide range of applications due to their lightweight, flexible, and adaptable nature. Some of these are as follows.

Building-integrated photovoltaics: Can be integrated into the building structure, such as roofs, walls, and facades, to generate electricity while serving as building materials.
Portable electronics: Flexible solar panels can be used to power portable electronics, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, while on the go.

Camping and outdoor activities: To generate electricity for camping and outdoor activities, such as powering lights, fans, and cooking appliances.

Marine applications: To generate electricity on boats, yachts, and other marine vessels to power navigation lights, communication equipment, and other electronics.

Transportation: In electric vehicles to generate electricity while on the move.

Military & Defence: In military and defence applications, such as powering remote communication equipment, surveillance cameras, and other devices.

Agriculture: In agriculture to power irrigation systems and other equipment.

Potential of Flexible Solar Panels

Several challenges exists to conventional solar panels. For instance, they are heavier and require standard spaces for installations. For example, they are mostly installed on horizontal spaces, such as rooftops. Installing them in other accommodative positions, such as mounting them on walls, becomes a challenging and costly affair.

Flexible solar modules are expected to fill the gap and improvise on existing solar technology. As per one Allied Market Research analysis, the global flexible solar panels market size is projected to reach $914.07 million by 2030, from $464.31 million in 2020, with a CAGR of 7.1 per cent from 2021 to 2030. As flexible panels solve many of the shortcomings of conventional panels, they have the potential to be a game changer in terms of expansion of solar usage of solar, and impact on renewable energy consumption.

Flexible modules offer clear adaptability and have the potential to enhance solar penetration even in previously difficult-to-solarize locations. Their versatility allows for a wide range of applications, making them a preferred choice for many. The global solar power market is projected to grow from $234.86 billion in 2022 to $373.84 billion by 2029, with a CAGR of 6.9 per cent during the forecast period of 2022-2029. With continued technological improvements in the efficiency and longevity of flexible panels, this technology is expected to thrive in the coming years.

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Junaid Shah

Junaid holds a Master of Engineering degree in Construction & Management. Being a civil engineering postgraduate and using his technical prowess, he has channeled his passion for writing in the environmental niche.