There's been a lot of debate recently about flexible solar panels.
Some solar power experts claim they are inferior to traditional rigid panels. They cite stories about flexible solar panels quickly deteriorating or completely failing in just a few months.
While some of these problems are true and well-documented, there is good news as well.
Flexible solar panel technology has gotten a lot better.
Most bendable solar panels from reputable brands like Renogy work just as well as rigid panels today - and last just as long.
So if you are thinking about installing flexible solar panels on your RV, boat, roof or any curved surface where a rigid solar panel won’t do, go for it.
A quick check of customer reviews on the most popular brands on Amazon shows that most customers are happy with their purchases.
In this quick buying guide, I review the best flexible solar panels to help you find the best one for your needs.
But first a quick explanation about flexible solar panels and how they work.
What Are Flexible Solar Panels?
Flexible solar panels are exactly that…flexible. Unlike traditional solar panels that are thick and rigid, you can bend flexible panels.
They solve a major limitation of traditional solar panels.
You can mount them on curved or uneven surfaces where it would be difficult to install a rigid solar panel such as the top of RVs, boats and even trucks.
Flexible solar panels are also great for curved roofs and structures such as awnings.
You can also use them if your roof cannot bear the weight of a traditional solar panel.
One big advantage of flexible solar panels is how lightweight they are. This makes them perfect for portability.
If you spend a lot of time outdoors, a flexible solar panel makes it easy to have power on the go.
Best Flexible Solar Panels: Comparison Chart
- Best Overall
Bendable to 248°
59.2 x 26.5 x 0.08in
- Best Rollable
Can be rolled up
216 x 15.5 x 0.2 in
- Best 100W
Bendable to 30°
42.5 x 21.6 x 0.9 in
18 months warranty
- Best for Small Off-Grid Homes
Bendable to 30°
53 x 27 x 0.09 in
12 months warranty
- Best for boats and RVs
Bendable to 30°
41.3 x 21.3 x 0.09 in
18 months warranty
Best Flexible Solar Panels: Reviews
Here are our top five flexible solar panels.
If instead, you are looking for a complete solar generator for your RV, boat or camping see our backup and standby solar generator buying guide.
You can pair a solar generator with a flexible solar panel or two.
You’ll find them much more convenient compared to using rigid panels that are tedious to carry and require a flat surface to set up.
Renogy is one of the most trusted brands when it comes to everything solar.
Their range of flexible solar panels is some of the best and most reliable in the market.
The 160-watt mono-crystalline solar panel is ultra-flexible. You can bend it up to 248 degrees, making it a great choice for a wide range of applications.
Its extreme bend-ability is because of the extra-thin design. It’s only a tenth of an inch thick.
But just because it is thin doesn’t mean it is fragile.
Renogy says it can withstand extreme winds and heavy snow loads. As long as you’ve secured it properly, it will serve you well for years.
To back that up, Renogy provides a 5-year material and workmanship warranty and a 25-year power output warranty.
The 25-year warranty guarantees that the panel will maintain high output over the years. This should assuage concerns that flexible solar panels deteriorate quickly in terms of output.
As for performance, the 160-watt output is not too bad. It’s plenty for most campers and RV owners.
The 36 solar cells are mono-crystalline, meaning they are very efficient even in low light conditions. The panel will still charge your battery even on overcast days.
Power: 160 watts
Open circuit voltage: 23V
Dimensions: 59.2 x 26.5 x 0.08 inches
Warranty: 5 years
If you thought the Renogy solar panel was flexible, wait until you read about this one from Unisolar.
It’s not only bendable; you can roll it up. When rolled out, it measures 18 feet long.
What we like most about this solar panel is that you can stick it on any surface. It adheres securely to metal roofs and on top of RVs and boats.
It’s a stick and peels solar panel. There’s no need for racks or mounts.
The roll-up solar panel produces up to 136 watts of power at 24V. That’s enough to keep a decent size battery charged.
The solar cells are designed for maximum efficiency.
Each cell has different layers that absorb blue, green, and red light. This increases performance in the shade and low light situations.
The cells can keep producing maximum power even when it gets really hot.
Most solar panels produce less power as it gets hotter.
The Power Bond solar panel maintains output, making it ideal for use in hot areas like Arizona and California.
The only major downside is that the solar panel doesn’t come with a warranty. That’s because the manufacturer went out of business a while back.
But customers say the panels are extremely durable and they’ve never had issues.
Power: 136 watts
Open circuit voltage: 24V (but can go as high as 30V)
Dimensions: 216 x 15.5 x 0.2 inches
The ALLPOWERS solar panel is not quite as bendable as the other two above, but it still works for many curvy or uneven surfaces.
You can only bend it to 30 degrees, so be careful not to stress it too much.
Power output is quite good.
It produces 100W of power at 18V. On most days, it can go even higher.
The SunPower monocrystalline cells have an efficiency of about 23.6%, which is significantly higher than most monocrystalline cells.
That means the solar panel can maintain high output even in bad weather.
If you want more power, you can buy new solar panels. But do not connect more than 3 of them in parallel or more than 2 in series.
You’ll also need to buy a solar charge controller if you don’t have one.
The 18-month warranty is not the longest, but the solar panel holds up well over time, according to customers.
Power: 100 watts
Open circuit voltage: 20V
Dimensions: 42.5 x 21.6 x 0.9 inches
The SUAOKI flexible solar panel has the same limited bend-ability as the ALLPOWERS panel – only 30%.
But that’s still flexible enough for most applications where a rigid solar panel is not ideal.
The panel uses monocrystalline cells, so performance is pretty good. Efficiency is around 20%.
The total output is 150W, but you can connect up to six of them for a total output of 900W, which is enough to power a small off-grid home or cabin.
The panel is easy to mount on a roof, RV, boat, or even on top of a tent. A metal-reinforced mounting hole one on each corner to ensure secure setup.
As expected, the SUAOKI solar panel is very light, weighing just 7.1lbs. That, combined with its slim, flexible shape, makes it easy to pack up and transport.
If you spend a lot of time on the road or trails, it will be easy to carry the solar panel along.
Our only concern is the 1-year warranty. It’s significantly shorter than what other manufacturers offer. So we cannot be sure how well the solar panel holds up after several years of use.
Power: 150 watts
Open circuit voltage: 20.5V
Dimensions: 53 x 27 x 0.09 inches
Warranty: 12 months
The BougeRV 100W flexible solar panel is a good choice if you are looking for something more affordable.
But you have to do with lower power output.
For most campers and RV owners, however, 100W is plenty enough to keep their appliances powered and their gadgets charged.
The SunPower monocrystalline solar cells have an efficiency of 23%-25%, ensuring you make the most of sunny days.
The solar panel is made from ETFE film, much better material than the polyester-based PET material used in cheaper solar panels.
ETFE or Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene lasts longer, has better temperature resistance, and is more efficient. A copper foundation adds strength and increases durability.
As for flexibility, the BougeRV panel also bends only up to 30 degrees. If you have an application that needs more flexibility, check the first two products I’ve reviewed in this buying guide.
Power: 100 watts
Open circuit voltage: 21.6V
Dimensions: 41.3 x 21.3 x 0.09 inches
Warranty: 18 months
Advantages of Flexible Solar Panels
Flexibility: This one is obvious. Being bendable makes it possible to mount the solar panel on surfaces like the top of an RV, boat, or truck. You can even mount one on top of your tent when out camping.
Easy portability: Flexible solar panels are much thinner than traditional panels with most measuring just a tenth of an inch thick. This makes them very light. That, combined with their flexibility, makes it easy to carry them when going camping, for field work or on a road trip.
Easy to set up: It takes no more than 10 minutes to set up a flexible solar panel. The easy and quick set up is especially handy if you need to take it down and set it up daily or every few days (e.g., when camping).
Just as efficient as traditional panels: A 150W flexible solar panel is just as good and efficient as a 150W rigid panel. You don’t have to sacrifice power for flexibility.
Limitations of Flexible Solar Panels
Not as durable as rigid panels: Though flexible solar panels have come a long way in terms of durability (modern ETFE can last 5-10 years) they are still not as durable as traditional rigid panels that can last up to 20 years.
Limited power output: Currently, it’s hard to find high-output flexible solar panels. The biggest ones top out at 150W. That’s why we recommend them for small scale systems in RVs and boats.
If you were to use them to power a home, you’d need a lot of them. That’s a problem because most manufacturers have a total system voltage limit meaning you can only connect a specific number of panels.
Buying Guide: How to Choose a Flexible Solar Panel
Here are the most important factors and features to consider when buying a flexible solar panel.
The most important factor when buying any kind of solar panel is output. The ideal output depends on the size of battery (or batteries) you need to charge and how quickly you consume the stored electricity.
If you want to charge a portable power station, a flexible solar panel with 100-150W in output is adequate depending on the total watt hours of the power station.
If you want to charge a large home backup battery, get a 150W-200W flexible solar panel. You can also get several 100W panels and chain them.
For RVs and boats one or two 100W-150W flexible panels are enough to keep you supplied with power.
Type of Solar Cells
Most flexible solar panels use monocrystalline solar cells. They are more efficient than polycrystalline solar cells and require a smaller surface area to produce the same amount of power.
A third type of solar cell design – amorphous solar cells – offers several advantages over poly and mono crystalline cells.
Flexible amorphous solar panels allow more flexibility, which is why the Uni-Solar PVL-136 solar panel is rollable, not just bendable.
Amorphous solar cells are also more efficient, though they require a larger surface area to produce the same amount of power. That’s why the Uni-Solar PVL-136 solar panel is much longer than the other same-output flexible solar panels.
Two other big advantages of amorphous solar panels is that they maintain output even in high temperatures (other solar cells reduce output when it gets hot) and have better low light performance, meaning you can charge your battery even when it’s cloudy or shady.
Look for a flexible solar panel made from ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene). Unlike PET solar panels, ETFE panels can withstand high temperatures, harsh elements and a wide range of chemicals.
This makes ETFE flexible solar panels more durable and reliable. While PET panels have a lifespan of about 5 year, ETFE solar panels can last up to 10 years.
Check how bendable the solar panel is. Most flexible solar panels allow a bending range of up to 30 degrees. This is adequate for most curved surfaces on RVs, boats and homes.
If you want even more flexibility, you can find panels that bend even more (like the 248-degree Renogy solar panel in our reviews above) and some that can be rolled up.
Size and Weight
Make sure the solar panel will fit the space you have available. This is especially important when buying rollable solar panels that require plenty of space when rolled out.
If portability is important for you, look for the lightest flexible solar panel you can get with the right amount of output.
One of the lightest flexible solar panels is the 5.7lb ALLPOWERS 100W bendable solar panel.You can even carry two of them for more power and you would still be travelling light.
Battery and Charge Controller
Compatibility is important when setting up a solar kit. You need a solar panel that is compatible – in terms of power, current and voltage – with your battery and charge controller.
Check the max input wattage of your portable power station. Be especially careful when chaining several solar panels. You don’t want to exceed the max wattage.
Also, check voltage requirements. For a 12V battery, get a solar panel with a max output voltage of 18V. A charge controller will step this down to a safe 12V.
If you have an MPPT charge controller, you can pair a higher-voltage solar panel (e.g. 24V) with a 12V battery. The controller will convert the excess voltage into current.
Finally, check the max current (amps or A) and voltage (V) your charge controller can handle.
Allow a 25% margin for both current and voltage, since solar panels sometimes have higher output than what is stated.
So if your charge controller can handle up to 150V, get flexible solar panels with a max output of 112V.
Flexible Solar Panels vs. Thin Film Solar Panels
Many people confuse the terms flexible and thin film solar panels. All thin film solar panels are flexible but not all flexible solar panels are thin film.
Thin film solar panels are an alternative technology to crystalline silicon solar cells (consisting of monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells).
Thin film solar cells consist of extremely thin photovoltaic materials (solar cells) made from cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide or amorphous silicon among other materials.
These solar panels are much thinner than crystalline solar panels, and are therefore much more flexible. The only thin film solar panel in our buying guide is the rollable Uni-Solar PVL-136 solar panel which uses amorphous silicon solar cells.
Traditional crystalline solar panels have gotten much thinner thanks to technology. Four of our picks in the reviews above are flexible monocrystalline solar panels. However, they cannot match the flexibility of thin film solar panels.
That’s why you are unlikely to come across a rollable monocrystalline solar panel – for now.
It’s likely that in the future, as people seek clean and cheap energy in more applications, most flexible solar panels will utilize thin film technology.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are flexible solar panels good?
Flexible solar panels have gotten a lot better in terms of performance and durability. But they are still less efficient and durable than traditional rigid panels.
How much power do flexible solar panels produce?
It depends on the rated wattage. The most powerful flexible solar panels produce around 150-160 watts. If you want more power, you have to connect several panels.
How are flexible solar panels made?
Bendable solar panels are made by layering several layers of photovoltaic cells on a plastic backing. Most modern, flexible solar panels consist of monocrystalline layers on top of a durable ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) plastic.
How thin can a solar panel be?
Flexible solar panels can be incredibly thin with many measuring just 0.1 inches thick.
How much can I bend a flexible solar panel?
Check the manufacturer specifications. Most can bend to 30 degrees. The most flexible ones can bend until they almost make a complete cylinder while others can be rolled up.
How long do flexible solar panels last?
Modern flexible solar panels with an ETFE laminate last about 10 years.
How do you clean flexible solar panels?
Wipe clean with neutral soap and water. Use a soft non-abrasive cloth. To remove grease, bird droppings and other tough debris, wipe with methylated spirit.
Are flexible solar panels efficient?
Modern flexible solar panels match the efficiency of rigid solar panels – between 20% and 25% for monocrystalline solar panels.