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Flexible Solar Panels Are the Way of the Future

Flexible solar panels are one of the most revolutionary and exciting technologies to come out of the field of solar energy in recent times. Flexible solar panels are also known as thin film solar panels, and they utilize new developments to produce solar panels and solar cells that are much thinner and more lightweight than traditional photovoltaic solar panels.

The majority of flexible photovoltaic solar panels are still made of silicon like traditional PV solar panels, however new developments have led to the ability to create thin film solar panels that are as efficient at generating energy as traditional panels. 

Another advantage of flexible solar cells is that they are much cheaper to produce than traditional PV solar cells due to the fact that they require much less silicon and other materials to produce a solar panel that is capable of generating the same amount of energy as the traditional panel. Thin film panels are produced using a thin layer of amorphous silicon, compared to normal PV solar panels which use bulk layers of either monocrystalline or polycrstyalline silicon wafers. 

The amorphous silicon allows the flexible cells to free up more electrons in a much smaller space when exposed to sunlight, and these free floating electrons are what actually generate electricity.

 
Thin film solar cells are available in several different types including foldable solar panels and even rollable solar panels. This gives them a huge advantage over traditional solar panels because the flexible solar panels are much easier to transport and carry, so they can be used virtually anywhere. 
 

flexible solar panelsThese flexible panels are also extremely lightweight, so they are ideal for use in outdoor situations such as camping and hiking. Due to the development of these flexible solar cells, it is now possible to purchase hundreds of different solar chargers and solar power generators which utilize thin film solar technology to make them much cheaper and more portable than ever before. 

These developments have led to a huge increase in the number of solar chargers and other smaller solar products available for purchase, and this has paved the way towards making solar energy much more accessible and practical for everyday uses.

History of Flexible Solar Cells

The odds are fairly good that most people have used thin film solar cells at some point in their life, although you may not have known much about it. If you have ever used a handheld solar power calculator, then you have probably used one that is powered using thin film solar technology. The first calculators to be powered entirely by thin film PV cells were introduced in 1978, when several different companies released their own solar calculators all of which utilized the recently developed thin film technology. 

The design of these calculators has not changed much over the years, and nearly all of the handheld calculators on the market today are powered using this same thin film solar technology, although the thin film cells themselves have become much more efficient and cheaper to produce which has substantially lowered the price of solar calculators.

In 1972, the University of Delaware established The Institute of Energy Conversion which was the first research laboratory in the world to be completely and solely focused on researching and developing flexible or thin film solar technology. They also specialized in solar thermal systems and were one the driving forces behind technological breakthroughs in that field as well. 

The developments that came from The Institute of Energy Conversion were partly responsible for the boom in solar energy that happened in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and many believe that they were directly responsible for the development of the thin film technology that was used in the first solar powered calculators.

Uses of Flexible Solar Panels

Due to their thin, lightweight nature, flexible solar panels can be used in a number of different ways and can be integrated into new construction or an existing structure much more easily than traditional crystalline silicon solar panels. The majority of thin solar panels are still installed on rooftops as with traditional solar panels. However, the flexible panels have several advantages over their much heavier and bulkier counterparts. 

The thin film solar panels are extremely lightweight so more of them can be installed over a much larger area without the added weight which can damage your roof. The thin film panels can also be installed directly on the roof without the need for any extra brackets or mounting devices which allows them to blend in much more, making them more aesthetically pleasing. 

Since the flexible panels are installed directly on the surface of the roof, they are also not susceptible to wind damage, and these solar panels can even be walked on carefully so they can be used to cover every possible inch of the roof’s surface. While not quite as efficient as traditional crystalline silicon solar panels, the thin solar panels require less money to purchase and can be installed over a much larger area so you’ll be able to generate as much if not more energy for the same price, while ensuring that your solar array blends in with the existing structure.

sarniaFirst Solar is one of the leading developers and manufacturers of thin film PV panels in the world, and they have developed and provided the solar panels for the majority of the worlds largest thin film solar power plants. 

In September 2010, the Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant opened in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and at the time it was the largest PV power plant in the world. 

First Solar designed and constructed the plant, which utilizes over 1.3 million thin film PV panels to generate up to 80 megawatts of electricity. 

Since then, both Japanese and Chinese companies have been investing large sums of money into thin film technology to try and combat First Solar’s dominance of the market share.


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