Solar energy is one of the most promising and rapidly developing alternative sources of electricity. It is a limitless resource that can be used anywhere in the world without polluting the environment. Agree, it would be nice to acquire your own alternative source of electricity.
It turns out that now solar energy can be converted into electricity right at home. Instead of bulky and fragile frame panels, flexible solar panels are now increasingly used. But how can this be implemented in practice?
We will help you understand the design of flexible solar panels and how they work. Useful recommendations for the selection and installation of structures are set out in our article. And for ease of perception of information, the article contains thematic photos and videos.
What are solar panels?
In order to understand whether flexible panels are suitable for you for generating electricity, you need to understand the theory.
What is a solar battery, how does the structure of flexible models differ from the rest? It is also very important to find out the advantages and disadvantages of this particular type of solar cells even before buying.
The structure and principles of flexible panels
The principle of operation of a solar battery is based on the concept of photovoltaics. As you know, light can be considered both as a wave and as a stream of particles – photons. The ability to convert the energy of photons into electricity is photovoltaics.
The first prototypes of modern solar cells were invented back in the 50s. Since then, they have changed significantly both in appearance and in the principle of operation. The photoelectric effect is made possible by the use of semiconductors
A semiconductor is a material that has a special atomic structure. An n-type semiconductor has extra electrons, but p-type semiconductor atoms lack them. To assemble a photocell, 2 types of materials are combined to form a two-layer construction.
The development and implementation of flexible solar cells has significantly expanded the scope of use and options for installing useful household appliances
- The deposition of silicon crystals with photovoltaic properties on a flexible base eliminated the main disadvantage of solar cells – fragility
- The photovoltaic layer is deposited onto thin metal plates, strips, and polymer films. Depending on the rigidity of the base, the battery can bend at an angle from 30º to 180º, roll up
- Flexible solar panel can be bent to collect as much sunlight as possible
- Sticking a flexible solar panel on the pavilion of a summer pool made of polycarbonate will allow the most rational way to maintain a pleasant bathing temperature in an artificial reservoir
- The location of a flexible solar battery on the roof of a tent, camper, solar awning will eliminate the need to look for a place to place a power bank during a vacation outside the city
- The use of flexible solar panels is a priority if a mini power plant is supposed to be installed on an unusual-shaped structure. The architect’s idea will not be affected
- It is flexible solar panels that are recommended to be mounted on roofs, the bearing capacity of which was not originally calculated for the installation of additional structures
Individual photocells are combined in panels. The panels can be rigid, in a sturdy metal frame. Now there is a trend towards lighter construction of photo panels. Flexible and lightweight solar cells are gaining popularity.
The principle of the solar battery can be described as follows:
- Sunlight hits the surface of the photocell from the n-layer side.
- Photons collide with semiconductor atoms, “knocking out” excess electrons.
- Free electrons move towards the p-layer and fall into atoms with a lack of particles.
- As a result, the upper layer acts as a cathode and the lower one acts as an anode.
- A constant current is generated that can easily charge the battery.
Silicon, selenium and many more expensive materials are used as semiconductors.
For flexible film solar cells, polymer spraying with aluminum conductors is also used. This design makes the panels surprisingly thin and light.
This technology is just beginning to develop, but there is no doubt that it has great prospects. But we will consider flexible panels in the broad sense of this definition.
You can read more about the principles of solar panels operation by following the link .
The Advantages of flexible solar cells
The benefits of flexible solar panels make this method of generating electricity one of the most promising:
- the size;
- environmental friendliness;
- ease of use.
The geometric and physical parameters of the panels, such as size and weight, are of great importance, since a large number of panels will be required to provide electricity to an entire residential building, when using heavy models, it may be necessary to strengthen the building structure, which will significantly increase installation costs.
The performance of silicon batteries is quite high. It is difficult to estimate the efficiency in this case; semiconductor panels are capable of converting light into electricity by 20% on average.
That is, if the power of solar radiation is 200 W, about 40 W of electricity will be received.
Flexible amorphous solar panels are much more tolerant of cloudy weather than conventional rigid silicon-based designs.
For comparison, a standard solar panel in cloudy weather is only able to operate at 10% of its capacity, while a flexible panel gives out about 50% of the nominal values.
Sunlight is a free and unlimited resource. This is its undoubted plus, in which the unconditional economy of solar panels is expressed.
In addition, this method of energy production is completely environmentally friendly, does not in any way affect the state of the environment and does not harm it. Moreover, by abandoning the popular alternative to solar energy – thermal power plants, humanity is reducing the level of atmospheric pollution.
Disadvantages of flexible type solar panels
Flexible solar panels also have a lot of disadvantages. First, this technology is still developing and has not yet reached the peak of its capabilities. In terms of performance, flexible amorphous batteries are inferior to rigid poly- or monocrystalline ones.
Secondly, a thin foil and a minimal spray layer fail relatively quickly. The warranty period for such panels is about 3 years.
After that, the photocells begin to gradually break down and require replacement.
Other disadvantages are inherent in all types of solar panels:
- payback duration;
- high price;
- a large number of expensive equipment, in addition to the batteries themselves;
- dependence on weather conditions.
A flexible panel with a power of about 150 W costs about 40 thousand rubles. or more, depending on the manufacturer. 20 batteries, a set of accumulators and additional equipment will cost a round sum. Taking into account the cost of 1 kWh of electricity, you will have to pay off the system for more than one year.
Where and how is solar energy used?
Flexible panels are used in various fields. Before you draw up a project for energy supply at home using these solar panels, find out where they are used and what are the features of their use in our climate.
Scope of solar panels
Flexible solar cells are widely used. They are successfully used in electronics, electrification of buildings, automobile and aircraft construction, and space objects.
In construction, such panels are used to provide residential and industrial buildings with electricity.
Portable chargers based on flexible solar cells are available to everyone and are sold everywhere. Large flexible travel panels for generating electricity anywhere in the world are very popular with travelers.
A very unusual but practical idea is to use the roadbed as the basis for flexible batteries. Special elements are shockproof and are not afraid of heavy loads.
This idea has already been implemented. The “solar” road provides energy to the surrounding villages, while not taking up a single extra meter of land.
Features of the use of flexible amorphous panels
Those who plan to start using flexible solar panels as a source of electricity for their home should be aware of the specifics of their operation.
Solar panels with a flexible metal base are used where increased requirements are imposed on the durability of mini-power plants:
First of all, users are concerned about the question, what to do in winter, when the daylight hours are short and there is not enough electricity to operate all devices?
Yes, in cloudy weather and short daylight hours, the performance of the panels will decrease. It’s good when there is an alternative in the form of the possibility of switching to centralized power supply. If not, you need to stock up on batteries and charge them on days when the weather is favorable.
An interesting feature of solar cells is that when a photocell is heated, its efficiency is significantly reduced.
The number of clear days per year varies by region. Of course, in the south, it is more rational to use flexible batteries, since the sun shines there longer and more often.
Since during the day the Earth changes its position relative to the Sun, the panels are best positioned universally – that is, from the south side at an angle of about 35-40 degrees. This situation will be relevant both in the morning and evening hours and at noon.
Solar Roof Mounting Instructions
If you decide that flexible amorphous silicon solar cells are what you need to provide electricity to your private home, start planning your work.
Pick the right equipment and estimate the approximate number of panels. Then read the rules for the installation and subsequent maintenance of solar cells.
But remember that the use of traditional silicon poly- and monocrystalline analogs is much more productive so far.
Step 1. Calculation of the number of panels
Any work begins with a project. For the design, you need to make the necessary calculations, namely:
- Daily electricity consumption;
- The total required power of photocells;
- Battery capacity;
- Number of panels.
The simplest thing is to calculate the electricity consumption. To do this, you need to take into account absolutely all electrical appliances that you use or can theoretically use.
- Refrigerator – 200 W;
- Computer – 300 W;
- TV – 150 W;
- Economical bulbs – 5 pieces of 20 W thus 5*20W = 100 W
The power of each device must be indicated in its documentation or on the case. After adding all the data, we get 750 watts. Based on this value, an inverter is selected – a device that converts direct current into alternating current with the desired frequency.
Be sure to make a small margin and choose an inverter 0.5 kW more powerful than the calculated value. That is, for a total power of 0.75 kW, a device no weaker than 1.25 kW is suitable
Then you need to pick up the batteries. The capacity of the battery (for example, 200 A ∙ h) shows how much current will be issued at a given voltage for an hour.
You can calculate the required capacity by dividing the total power of consumers by the output voltage of the solar battery. In our example, we use 12 volt batteries. 750/12 = 62.5 A ∙ h.
But this formula is not entirely correct, since most batteries cannot be discharged to 0. There is a certain limit, for example 40%. If the charge level drops below, this will significantly affect the life and quality of the battery.
This indicator also needs to be added to the formula:
750 W / (12Vx0.4) = 156.25 A ∙ h.
To achieve this capacity, a group of 2 batteries, 100 Ah each, can be combined into a system.
The number of panels is calculated based on the capacity of the selected model and the region in which they will be installed. The importance of the region can hardly be overestimated. Ideally, you should find the daily solar radiation values for your area. For reliability, the minimum value for the year is taken, approximately at the end of December.
Multiplying this indicator by the number of calendar days of the month, we get the number of kilowatts, which falls on 1 m2 of flexible solar battery in December. For example, in UK it is 0.33×31 = 10.23 kW / m2 This indicator is called the number of pic-hours.
Then, from the conditional maximum 0.75 kW consumed by all devices at the same time, we calculate the average monthly consumption – about 25 kW. For a month, our flexible batteries should produce at least 25,000 W, and it is better to make a small margin and round up to 30 kW.
Consequently, for 1 pic-hour in Moscow, 30 / 10.23 = 2.93 kW should be obtained. If the selected panels have a power of 150 W, then it is not difficult to count their number: 2.93 / 0.15 = 20 pieces.
After such simple calculations, you can choose the right inverter, controller , battery and flexible photovoltaic panels themselves in the right amount.
Step # 2. Rule Of Flexible Solar Panel Installation
Installation of flexible solar cells can be done by yourself.
To do this, you should decide where exactly you will place your panels:
- on the roof of the building;
- on the facade of the house;
- on a free-standing structure;
- combined scheme.
The most popular option is on the roof. If the shape or configuration of the roof does not allow this, it is better to build an additional frame on which to place the batteries. This is more costly, but if the roof is shaded or difficult to access, this option becomes rational.
Flexible solar PV cells have a sticky resinous layer on the underside.
It is enough to remove the protective film and glue the panel in the chosen place. Of course, the surface must be cleaned and washed before installation.
On one side, the solar module has 2 lead cables. Each panel is positioned so that these wires can later be combined with one bus for serial connection.
We also recommend reading our other material, which describes in detail the installation diagrams and methods for connecting solar panels.
Step # 3. System care after installation of flexible solar cells
After installing flexible solar cells, they will need to be constantly looked after and monitored, otherwise their effectiveness can dramatically decrease. The main thing is to keep the panels clean. Dust, dirt, bird droppings – all of these factors reduce the performance of the system, as they limit the absorption of sunlight by the solar cells.
Solar panels should be wiped clean as they become dirty. That is why it is not recommended to place them in hard-to-reach places on a complex roof.
If your system cannot be serviced by you yourself, you can always find a contractor with the appropriate technique and equipment. Of course, it will cost more.
Another problem that is urgent for our regions is snow. In winter, the batteries are covered with snow and stop functioning. The sediment must be constantly cleaned off, but not too roughly, otherwise the equipment itself can be damaged.
Conclusions and useful video on the topic
Videos and reviews covering flexible panels from popular manufacturers will help you make the right choice. You will be able to see how your house will look after installation of the equipment, experts will help you choose the right amount of batteries and consider the installation rules.
How flexible solar panels are arranged and what they are made of:
You can also install a flexible battery in an apartment on the facade of a high-rise building, why not:
A little more about the production and benefits of flex items:
Solar panels make it possible to become non-volatile, not to monitor the prices of gasoline and utilities. If you invest a certain amount once, you can use unlimited energy for using household appliances, heating your home and recharging the battery of an electric vehicle. More and more people are switching to alternative energy, because it is the future.
If you have the necessary knowledge or experience on the topic of our article, please share it with our readers. Or maybe you had to install solar panels yourself? Tell us how you did it. You can add photos to your comments.