flexible solar panels vs rigid: similarities and differences featured image

The options available today for your solar projects are nothing short of exciting.

You’ve got flexible designs such as the REDARC Folding Panel, which generates 200 watts in 1,350 x 290 mm, and rigid solar panels such as the Victron BlueSolar with light sensitivity across the entire solar spectrum.

As a would-be solar solution owner, you must be wondering, “What are the main differences to help me decide? What about similarities?”

To help you wrap your head around your choices, we’ve gathered two similarities and differences between flexible and rigid solar panels. As we delve into them, you’ll also learn:

  • Which components within solar panels are recyclable
  • How hot weather affects flexible solar panels 
  • Why flexible solar panels work alongside rigid panels
  • Where to find the best deals on top-quality solar solutions

So, what are the similarities of rigid and flexible solar panels?

1 - Rigid and Flexible Solar Panels Are Compatible

Flexible and rigid solar panels are both available in standard monocrystalline and polycrystalline designs, which are compatible. As such, you can easily combine both panel types for their unique benefits without impacting energy generation.

For instance, for a recreational vehicle solar project, combining flexible and rigid panels helps you conserve weight and fuel consumption without limiting energy output.

The flexible panels, with their thinner and lighter designs, save weight and fuel. The rigid panels, with their larger designs, maximise energy output. Both panels work together in a complementary fashion.

Also, the availability of rigid and flexible panels in monocrystalline and polycrystalline designs adds a dimension for customisation to your solar project due to differing costs.

The monocrystalline designs, with their distinct dark appearance, are pricier but generate more energy. The polycrystalline designs, with their blue-hued look, are cheaper but have lower outputs.

The table below highlights these traits on proportionate rigid solar panels.

Monocrystalline Rigid Solar Panel Polycrystalline Rigid Solar Panel

monocrystalline rigid panel from Off Grid

  • Retailing at $120.45
  • Generates 55 watts

polycrystalline rigid panel from Off Grid

  • Retailing at $96.45
  • Generates 45 watts

This correlation (between crystalline design, price, and energy output) allows you to combine mono and polycrystalline designs to boost efficiency and maintain effectiveness.

From our previous recreational vehicle example, combining flexible and rigid solar panels of monocrystalline and polycrystalline designs enables you to achieve:

  • Lower weight for better fuel consumption (efficiency)
  • Cost savings on the entire solar project (efficiency)
  • Sufficient output for your energy requirements (effectiveness)

2 - Rigid and Flexible Solar Panels Are Recyclable

After years of generating clean energy, your old rigid and flexible solar panels continue to help the environment by supplying raw materials to new panels via recycling.

The individual components within both solar panel designs, such as silicon and aluminium, are part of a circular economy that keeps electronic waste away from landfills.

Aluminium, for instance, is 100% recyclable with applications beyond solar panel value chains. This fact is particularly important given Australia’s projected electronic waste of 30,000–145,000 tonnes by 2030.

rigid aluminium-cased solar panel from Off Grid

Crystalline silicon, also present in flexible and rigid solar panels, is largely recyclable with a value recovery rate of 70%. After processing, the recycled silicon is used to manufacture new solar panels and refurbish defective ones, avoiding waste.

foldable silicon solar panel from Off Grid

Generally, the cumulative yield of recycling either solar panel design (rigid or flexible) is 85%, making them among the most environmentally friendly products in Australia.

“…It doesn’t use any chemicals, it doesn’t emit any pollution or hazardous. It produces dust from crushing the panels but you have dust collectors… ”
Dr. Pablo Dias, University of South Wales, on solar recycling

Now, what are the differences between rigid and flexible solar panels?

3 - Flexible Solar Panels Adapt to Mounting Surfaces

The tag “flexible” says it all.

Unlike their traditional rigid counterparts, flexible solar panels bend partially to fit various mounting surfaces. This feature allows for application in unconventional spaces where rigid panels simply wouldn’t fit, such as:

  • Atop bus stops with arched roofs
  • On the roof of a hatchback-sized vehicle
  • Above camping tent fabrics

Flexible solar panels are also lightweight and low-profile. They don’t use the bulky mounting materials of rigid solar panels such as aluminium casings and brackets. Some designs only need double-sided tapes and adhesives, simplifying their application on unconventional surfaces.

Take, for instance, a small car roof. Adhesive mounting eliminates the need for drilling holes in your vehicle. It also ensures that the flexible solar panels are mounted directly onto your rooftop with a low-profile set-up that plays well with the vehicle’s overall look.

Additionally, the weight-saving adhesive mounting of flexible solar panels gives you better mileage on your vehicle.

For a similar application with rigid solar panels, you can only use vehicles with conventional flat and large surfaces, such as motorhomes and campervans.

4 - Rigid Solar Panels Are Sturdier Than Flexible Solar Panels

As you probably expected, rigid solar panels, with their greater weight and extra mounting materials, are sturdier than the more nimble flexible panels.

They feature tempered glass shields, aluminium frames, and brackets, which offer greater protection from weather damage, snowfall impact, and strong winds.

Think of the high 32 km/h wind speeds generated over New South Wales. Flexible solar panels with adhesive mountings stand a greater risk of being blown off rooftops than rigid bracket-mounted solar panels.

It’s for this reason that solar farms, often coupled with wind turbines, use rigid solar panels.

Beyond physical protection, the raised mounting of rigid solar panels also protects them from excessive heat—a major problem for non-raised flexible solar panels.

The space between the mounting brackets and the solar cells permits airflow and heat circulation, especially during those hot summer days. This ventilation keeps the rigid solar panels cool and promotes normal functioning in terms of rated energy output.

Flexible solar panels, which are mounted directly onto surfaces, have no air gap to help them cool. As the panels become hot, they lose their ability to function and produce less energy than their rated energy output.

Generally, solar panels have a test temperature of 25℃ and a working range of 15–35℃. Temperatures above this range reduce energy output by up to 25%; and on summer days, non-ventilated flexible panels get as hot as 65℃.

flexible solar panels vs rigid: similarities and differences photo snippet

Use Off Grid Direct for Your Next Solar Project

So, there are two differences and similarities between flexible and rigid solar panels.

With these points in mind, why not make a saving on your next solar project with equipment from Off Grid Direct?

We take great pride in helping our clients find top-quality solar solutions at the best prices. We handpick all our products for quality, guarantee 30-day easy returns, and offer price-match deals.

Contact us today to learn which solutions work best for your project.

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