With the push towards sustainable energy, there has been significant development with solar panel types.
In the following guide, we look to outline a brief description of, and the main differences between:
Flexible, Semi-Flexible & Bendable Solar Panels
Foldable Solar Panels
Glass Solar Panels
Clicking on the above links will take you through to more in-depth reviews and buyer’s guides on each type of solar panel.
Onto the description and differences…
Flexible vs. Bendable vs. Foldable vs. Glass (Rigid) Solar Panels: What’s The Difference?
1. Flexible and Semi-Flexible Solar Panels
Flexible and semi-flexible solar panels are usually made of very lightweight materials like plastic.
The average flexible solar panel is 50 or 100 watt, can run on around 18 volts, and is good for charging 12 volt batteries.
They are usually able to be installed without using heavy or structural fixings – think adhesive, grommets, zip ties or velcro.
For this reason, they are also referred to as stick-on solar panels, and can usually be removed as easy as they can be installed.
They are highly transportable and transferrable to other surfaces – making them great for the home or a range of applications like camping, RV and caravan, boating and charging bike batteries.
A flexible or semi-flexible solar panel may or may not bend – read the manufacturer’s instructions.
One thing to note with flexible solar panels is that while they can’t break or crack, they are vulnerable to sharp objects and tearing.
2. Bendable Solar Panels
Bendable solar panels are flexible and semi-flexible solar panels that are able to be bent or curved to a certain limit.
Bendable solar panels can usually bend between 10 to 30 degrees, but can’t be completely folded.
The good thing about bendable solar panels is that they can be installed on curved or irregular surfaces.
3. Foldable Solar Panels
Foldable solar panels are highly portable and lightweight.
They can be made out of a polymer laminate (and are usually contained with sewn fabric or canvas) and are great for a high level of portability and transportability.
The panels themselves fold on top of one another – making it super easy to fold the panels out, or fold them up.
They are very handy for outdoor activities like hiking, camping and any remote activity where you will be moving around.
They can be attached to backpacks, trees, tents and folded out on boat decks, car trays and more.
4. Glass/Rigid Solar Panels
The traditional solar panel made of glass with an aluminium or steel frame.
Glass and rigid solar panels are not transportable as they usually require permanent structural fixing, and are best for home and commercial/industrial applications.
The upside to this is that glass solar panels will last many years with proper cleaning and testing, and they have much higher wattage capabilities (also making them much more expensive).
Solar panels made with tempered glass as opposed to flat plate glass are usually a better option.
Flexible vs Rigid Solar Panels: Comparison
Below, we’ve compared two panels – the rigid Renogy panel, and the flexible Windynation panel.
You get the key specs of each panel, along with differences, similarities, and which might be better for you.
Let’s look at these flexible and rigid solar panels in more detail…
Flexible Solar Panels vs Rigid: Comparison
So you can get an idea of what a flexible and a rigid solar panel look like side by side, we listed some of the key features of the Renogy and Windynation models:
– Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Panel
NOTE: the Renogy 100 watt also comes in a polycrystalline model.
Designed for most off-grid applications, but can be used for on-grid inverters too
For 12 volt battery charging
Dimensions – 47 X 21.3 X 1.4 inches
Weight – 16.5lbs
Weather Resistant including to wind, and snow loads
Corrosion resistant aluminium frame with pre-drilled mounting holes
Comes with junction box and cables
Can also buy in a kit with solar controller and brackets
More price competitive than the Allpowers – better value for money on a price per watt basis
You can read more about the Renogy 100 Watt Rigid solar panel in this guide.
– Windynation 100 Watt 12 Volts Bendable Sunpower Solar Panel
Designed for most 0ff grid applications including but not limited to RV, boat, cabin, tent, or mounting to any
other irregular surface
For 12 volt battery charging
Dimensions – 41.7″ x 21.3″ x 0.1″ inches
Weight – 4.1 lbs
Bendable up to 30 degrees
Sealed junction box, MC4 connectors, and pre-drilled mounting holes
You can read more about the Windynation 100 Watt Flexible solar panel in this guide.
Flexible Solar Panels vs Rigid: Differences
Flexible solar panels tend to weigh less
Flexible solar panels might be bendable – on average up to 30 degrees
Flexible solar panels can be temporarily laid out on a surface, or temporarily installed – then when finished charging, stored away and used elsewhere. Rigid panels are usually permanently installed with mounting brackets. So, flexible solar panels tend to be more portable – unless you are ok with using the rigid panel without mounting it
Flexible solar panels are more vulnerable to sharp or rough objects through tearing or scratching
Rigid solar panels tend to cost less per watt of power that you get in the panel – you pay less generally for a 100 Watt rigid solar panel compared to a flexible solar panel
Rigid solar panels are less prone to tearing, but if struck with decent force – can crack or break
Although there are good flexible panels on the market, rigid solar panels overall seem to be higher quality overall – better established companies offering rigid panels with the resources to make high grade products
With a more established brand like Renogy, you have a higher chance of guarantees on warranties, and current and future compatibility of the panel with other solar panels and accessories on the market
The Renogy comes available in a kit with a solar controller, whereas the Allpowers doesn’t
Flexible Solar Panels vs Rigid: Similarities
Both types of solar panels come in 100 watt models
Both are for 12 volt battery charging
Both need to be in direct sunlight for optimum operating performance
Both can be used for off-grid and on-grid applications
Both come standard with junction box and cables
Flexible Solar Panels vs Rigid: Which Is Better?
You might get a flexible solar panel if…
You want a lightweight, thin, sometimes bendable, and more portable option that can be temporarily used in one location and transferred to another
You might want a rigid solar panel if…
You want a cost efficient, reliable, high quality panel that you don’t mind isn’t bendable, and probably isn’t as portable as a flexible panel
6 Reasons You Would Buy Rigid Solar Panels (Potential Benefits)
Rigid solar panels are probably the most popular off grid option for those looking for solar power for their off grid system.
Not only have rigid solar panels been around the longest of any solar panels, but they are also the most cost effective per Watt, and are therefore probably the best value for money for most people too.
Applications like charging RV batteries, boat batteries, car and van batteries, powering a small cabin – are all made easier with rigid solar panels.
We don’t have a guide specifically for rigid solar panels, so, below are 6 potential reasons you’d buy rigid solar panels …
1. They are the most cost efficient/value for money solar panels
When you compare most rigid solar panels to most flexible and folding solar panels, you pay less money per Watt that you get in the panel.
So, if you buy a 100 Watt rigid solar panel, and a 100 Watt flexible solar panel, most times the rigid solar panel is going to be cheaper for a similar power output.
We even see rigid solar panel kits, including the panel, connectors/cables and solar controller, being cheaper than a stand alone flexible or folding solar panel of the same size.
2. The technology is the most developed
Rigid solar panels have been around for the longest of any of the solar panel types.
For this reason, they have been developed the most, and are further along in their technology and what they can offer than the other types of panels.
For example, even if we look at solar panels used for on-grid purposes, they are only JUST now developing flexible solar panels for wide spread use on buildings, whereas rigid panels have been used for years.
The same goes for rigid solar panels for off grid use – they are more popular and widely uses than flexible and folding panels, but small portable folding panels in particular are growing in popularity.
3. The companies and available accessories are generally well established
Because rigid solar panels are the most common and popular, the companies that manufacture them are generally well established.
If we take Renogy for example, they are well established and well resourced.
Being that Renogy is a major brand, it also helps that there are many accessories like solar controllers, inverters, cables, batteries etc. that are made to be compatible with this brand of panel.
4. Can be used for a wide array of applications
Rigid solar panels do tend to be mounted with brackets to a surface, but they can be used for a wide array of charging needs.
This might include charging 12 volt batteries in RV’s, cars, vans, bikes, boats, small cabins and more.
5. Mono and poly crystalline options available
The good solar brands will offer a mono-crystalline and polycrystalline version of their panels.
If we take for example Renogy’s 100 Watt rigid solar panel – it is available in both Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline versions.
Both these types of panels are very efficient when in direct sunlight.
6. Can be used without permanent installation
Rigid solar panels do tend to be fixed to a surface, like an RV roof for example, with mounting brackets.
For this reason people might say they tend to be permanently installed.
However, there is no reason you can’t lay a rigid solar panel flat on a surface (as long as you aren’t moving anywhere) and charge the battery like that. You could then pick up the panel and store it away after use.
Where can you find out more about rigid solar panels?
You can read this guide/review of one of the most popular rigid solar panels from Renogy.