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Portable Solar Panels for Remote Applications

Updated: 6 days ago


portable solar panels

Solar panels aren’t just for roofs and fields anymore—there are plenty of options for your clients to use solar energy when camping, hiking, on road trips, or in emergencies. Portable solar panels could help your clients fulfill different needs than rooftop solar arrays.


Numerous products, from portable cell phone chargers to small solar panel arrays, are now on the market to provide clean energy on the go. Plug-and-play kits contain one or more solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, lights, an MPPT solar charge controller, and USB ports for charging devices. Other kits include inverters and standard outlets, allowing them to power a greater array of devices.


Portable solar panels can take the place of a generator, yet do not need a fuel source and are quiet when operating. They are ideal when power is useful, but it isn’t possible to easily access the grid power. Because they aren’t permanently mounted, the solar panels often contain a foldable stand or case to prop them up at an angle.


What Is A Portable Solar Panel?

Unlike most rooftop solar panels, which contain a frame and are anchored to the roof, portable solar panels are compact and lightweight. Most portable modules are monocrystalline solar panels that produce an electrical current, but they are often made of a flexible or foldable material.


Portable solar panels vary in size, design, and capabilities and can power anything from a single device to an entire RV. Their wattage can range from a few to 300 or more.


These solar panels are easy to set up on the ground or to hang from a vehicle or other surface. Often, the modules contain a frame for propping them up on the ground. They are ideal for providing power when the grid is far away or difficult or expensive to access. Portable solar panels can also be helpful in disaster preparedness kits because they operate independently of the power grid.



Features To Consider When Buying Portable Solar Panels

When your clients select a portable solar system, it’s critical to consider the desired use and application. For example, will the system charge just one or two cell phones or power an entire RV?


Key considerations:

  • Capacity of the Photovoltaic (PV) System: This varies depending on the number of solar panels, their wattage, and the battery. It’s important to match this with the power loads.

  • Solar Panel Size: Some kits contain several larger solar panels, which require more space to set up than smaller kits with just one modest panel.

  • Solar Panel Durability: If your clients will leave the panels outside during windy or stormy weather, it’s helpful to get a more weather-resistant system that can withstand the elements.

  • Energy Storage Capacity: The battery life will depend on the size of the battery pack and its use. A larger capacity battery is helpful in areas with more cloudy weather or for applications with heavier loads. Some systems are designed for the solar panels to charge the battery in one day, while others require several days of full sun.

  • Solar Incentives: If an RV is a primary or secondary residence, your clients could qualify for the federal solar tax credit. This can significantly lower the total cost of the system.

  • Power Output Jacks: Some systems provide power only through USB ports, while others use standard household 120-volt AC outlets.

  • System Expandability: Some RV solar kits can be expanded by adding additional solar panels. Expandability opens up more options in the future because the system is more flexible.

  • Portable Solar Panel Price: The cost of portable solar panels varies widely from tens of dollars to thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

  • Financing: Financing might be essential for your clients when purchasing a more expensive system. This is often available on Amazon or through other retailers.

  • Warranties: Portable solar systems often come with warranties, but they are typically shorter than the ones available for residential solar equipment.

  • Weight: Some portable solar panel setups weigh more than others. This is a critical consideration for clients who cannot lift heavy things or need to carry the system to a remote location. Some solar generators can be fairly heavy, making them less convenient on the go.

  • Solar Panel Efficiency: High-efficiency solar panels will generate more electricity with a smaller footprint. Most portable solar panels are monocrystalline modules because of their higher energy conversion efficiency compared to polycrystalline solar panels.


small solar panels

Uses For Portable Solar Panels

Portable solar panel systems are designed for various purposes and come in different configurations and capabilities. Some contain alligator clips for connectors and flexible solar panels. Below, we’ll discuss the two most common applications.


Charging Small Devices On A Road Trip

These systems commonly have solar cells, a battery, and sometimes lights. Some setups allow the battery to be charged with grid power and not exclusively from solar power. Often, the connector type is a USB port, which limits the devices that can be charged


More sophisticated systems will also have an LCD power display and wireless charging capabilities. Such systems are also helpful during power outages.


Camping And RV Travel

These systems commonly contain a battery, charge controller, and inverter and can power various loads for camping trips, boats, or RV travel. Some are configured like portable solar generators and are also helpful during power outages.


Remote Work

Digital nomads and remote workers can use portable solar panels to charge laptops and electronic devices while working in remote locations. However, many solar generators don't have the capacity to run many power tools or appliances with high power demand.


Pros And Cons Of Portable Solar Panels


Pros:

  • They provide electricity and operate independently of the power grid. This enables campers and people on the go to have portable solar power, even in remote locations.

  • Your clients can control the angle of the portable solar panel, ensuring it's at the optimum angle given the season, the sun's position, and shading.

  • They are great for “solar-curious” individuals who aren’t ready to invest in a rooftop solar array.

  • Although DIY portable solar panel kits range in capabilities, they often cost far less than a home solar system.

  • They make the benefits of solar energy available to a larger segment of the population, regardless of home ownership.

  • These off-grid solar systems can provide emergency solar power during power outages, assisting in emergency preparedness.

  • Portable solar panels can allow RV users to reduce their fees at some campgrounds that charge for electricity.


Cons:

  • Because portable solar panels are not fixed to a surface such as a roof, they must be set up each time they are in use.

  • Portable solar panels aren’t typically anchored to anything. Therefore, severe weather can damage them, and theft or vandalism can also be an issue.

  • Residential solar panels tend to have an aluminum frame and glass or a polycarbonate material on the face. Most portable solar panels do not, making them less durable.

  • They only provide benefits when assembled and are rarely used continuously, unlike a home solar system that produces value daily.

  • The warranties on portable solar panels are typically shorter than those on rooftop solar panels.

  • Many portable solar panel systems do not qualify for the federal solar tax credit. However, some RVs that are primary or secondary homes may be an exception. Clients should consult a tax professional for more information.

  • Portable solar modules are prone to theft because they are more visible and not well anchored to the ground.

  • It's also important to consider the running wattage and peak wattage of the needed loads, as many portable solar panels cannot run more power-intensive appliances and tools.


Loads Portable Solar Panels Can Power

It's also important to consider the electrical loads' running and peak wattage before selecting a portable solar panel system. Portable solar panels are best equipped to power certain electronics and small, energy-efficient appliances, such as mobile phones, tablets, laptop computers, and GPS devices. They can also power cameras, portable speakers, LED lights, lanterns, radios, fans, and camping refrigerators.


Loads Portable Solar Panels Cannot Power

While portable solar panels are versatile and can power many small electronic devices and appliances, there are certain loads that they may not be able to power efficiently or effectively due to their limited capacity and output.


Some examples of loads that portable solar panels may struggle to power include:


  1. High-power appliances: Portable solar panels typically have limited capacity and output, making them unsuitable for powering high-power appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators, microwave ovens, or electric heaters, which require a significant amount of energy to operate.

  2. Large electronic devices: Portable PV panels may not provide enough power to charge or operate large electronic devices such as desktop computers, televisions, gaming consoles, or home theater systems, which typically have higher energy requirements.

  3. Heavy-duty tools: Small solar panels may not provide sufficient power to operate heavy-duty power tools, machinery, or equipment commonly used in construction sites, workshops, or industrial settings.

  4. Appliances with high startup power requirements: Some appliances, such as refrigerators or air conditioners, have high startup power requirements known as surge or inrush current. Unfortunately, portable solar panels may struggle to meet these initial power demands, especially if they are operating at their maximum capacity.

  5. Continuous or high-energy consumption loads: Certain loads, such as electric water heaters, washing machines, or space heaters, that require continuous or high-energy consumption over an extended period may exceed the capacity of portable solar panels and require a more robust solar power system and battery bank.


small solar panels

What Are The Best Portable Panels?

The best portable solar panels tend to be monocrystalline instead of the less efficient polycrystalline solar panels. Therefore, these modules can convert sunlight to electricity very efficiently.


Bluetti PV200 Solar Panel: This 200-watt monocrystalline solar panel has a 23.4% conversion efficiency. It features a foldable design and weighs 16 pounds. It is compatible with most solar generators with MC4 connectors, making it convenient to use with Bluetti power stations or other solar generator systems.


The Bluetti PV200 has a 12-month warranty, protecting against manufacturing defects or malfunctions. It is also coated with ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene), a lightweight and heat-resistant film that increases its overall durability and protects the portable solar panel from environmental damage.


Bluetti PV350 Solar Panel: This 350-watt panel features the same high conversion efficiency of 23.4% and uses advanced laminated technology. The portable solar panel description says it can be splashed with water but should not be left in the rain or submerged in water. Like the PV200, this portable PV module features an ETFE coating and can fold up. This portable solar panel weights just over 30 pounds


Jackery SolarSaga 200-Watt Solar Panel: This panel has a conversion efficiency of up to 24.3% and is positioned using three kickstands. This foldable solar panel has a carry case and an IP67 waterproof rating. Jackery power products have a 24-month warranty for certain defects.


Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase with Voyager: This suitcase contains two 50-watt solar panels and an adjustable corrosion-resistant aluminum stand. It includes a charge controller with overcharge protection and a 10-year warranty, but it weighs 26.6 pounds, more than the other best portable solar panels. It is compatible with a variety of energy storage systems, including sealed batteries, gel batteries, flooded batteries, and lithium batteries.


EcoFlow 160W Solar Panel: This portable PV module features a foldable design and weighs just 15.4 pounds. It features IP68-rated dust and water resistance and has a protective ETFE film. Its carry case doubles as a kickstand for angling the portable solar panel for maximum sun exposure.


FAQs About Portable Solar Panel Systems

Read on to get answers to some of your common questions about solar solar panels.


Can Solar Panels Work with a Battery Generator?

Portable solar panels can work with battery generators to provide a sustainable and reliable power source. These portable devices combine a backup battery power station with solar panels that harness energy from the sun. By utilizing this combination, your clients can have access to a quiet, zero-emission source of backup power that can be particularly useful in various situations, such as outdoor adventures or emergency preparedness. The solar panels recharge the battery generator, ensuring power is available even in remote locations or during power outages.


What Can Portable Solar Panels Power?

Most portable solar panel systems can run small electronic devices such as LED lights, fans, smartphones, laptops, and GPS devices. However, due to their high power requirements, they are limited in their ability to power energy-intensive loads such as heaters, sump pumps, electric water heaters, air conditioners, and most power tools.


How Much Does a Portable Solar Panel Weigh?

The weight of a portable solar panel can vary depending on its power output, design, brand, and model. On average, portable solar panels can weigh between 1 to 15 pounds. For example, smaller panels with a power output of around 20W may weigh just a few pounds, making them easy to carry in a backpack. On the other hand, larger portable panels with a power output of around 100W may weigh around 15 pounds.


Are Portable Solar Panels Worth It?

If your clients are interested in mobile solar systems with a compact design, there are many excellent options available. These portable solar panel systems allow users to charge small devices or even power an RV. They are more portable than rooftop solar panels but less durable and usually have shorter warranties.


Need help designing off-grid solar systems or creating solar plan sets? Complete the submission form below to learn more about GreenLancer solar design, engineering, and field services.



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