portable solar panels

Portable Solar Panels: Everything You Need to Know (2024)

Portable solar panels are compact, efficient devices that can capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electrical energy. In simpler terms, it is a handy and easy-to-carry device that provides emergency backup outdoors for devices like portable lamps, power banks and several others.

In the United States, portable solar panels have gained huge popularity as the market size reached $315.22 million in 2023, and it is expected to rise to around $1,592.02 million by 2033 with a CAGR of 18% from 2024 to 2033. They are chosen as an excellent resource with 3.6 million installations for various applications in 2022.

charging phone using portable solar panels

These solar panels are versatile and eco-friendly solutions for obtaining power away from fixed energy sources. It is possible by considering various factors like the ability to withdraw power when you’re off the grid, and fewer materials during the manufacturing process, which reduces the production cost and carbon footprint. Also, the working process to harness solar energy is identical to the traditional PV panels by having its pros and cons.

What are Portable Solar Panels?

Portable solar panels are lightweight and highly reliable photovoltaic modules that are easy to install and transport from one place to another with minimal complications.

Unlike the traditional roof-mounted solar panels that are bulky and large, these portable variants are flexible and easy to assemble by possessing the exceptional feature of producing more energy even during the toughest weather conditions with fewer space requirements. Mainly, the waterproof feature makes it suitable for travelling and outdoor purposes.

Typically, Portable solar panels of 100W come in the size of 150 cm x 40 cm and produce power of 0.6–0.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per day. Whereas, a size greater than 300W with a size of 200 cm x 100 cm generates between 1.8– 2.1 kilowatt-hours (kWh) in a day.

Different types of portable solar panels include:

  • Foldable: These solar panels can be folded and kept in your bag while travelling to various locations having an efficiency of 21.5% to 23.55%. There are three types of foldable solar panels namely monocrystalline (single silicon crystal), polycrystalline (multiple crystalline silicon fragments) and thin film (made of amorphous silicon, CdTe and CIGS solar cells).
  • Briefcase: Similar to the properties of foldable solar panels, these modules come in a protective casing similar to a briefcase-like structure which is easy to carry and offers additional protection for the solar cells having an efficiency of 22%.
  • Rollable: These panels are made from thin film solar cells with high flexibility and an efficiency of 21% to 23% approximately.
  • Backpack: The thin film solar panels are integrated along with a travelling bag having an efficiency of 17 to 22% approximately and the actual power output varies according to the angle and intensity of sunlight, temperature, and condition of solar cells.

How Do Portable Solar Panels Work?

You can understand the working procedure of solar panels by knowing these components in detail:

  • Solar Panels consist of a collection of photovoltaic solar cells that release photons to generate electric fields when sunlight strikes the panels, known as the photovoltaic effect.
  • Charge Controllers regulate the voltage and current from solar panels that should pass through the battery to avoid overcharging.
  • Batteries receive the electric field through the metallic strips present on the solar panels to store energy and generate DC power.
  • An Inverter converts DC power to AC power by ensuring the smooth operation of your devices and appliances.
  • The Adapter Kit helps you charge your devices by connecting them to the system.

Although Portable solar panels can perform well on cloudy days, their efficiency is reduced. As a result, direct sunlight with high intensity becomes crucial for these solar panels to operate effectively and produce higher power output.

Several factors can influence the efficiency of Portable solar panels such as temperature, shading, latitude, reflection, maintenance, soiling (dirt and debris), sun radiance, etc. There is a lot more to know about solar panel efficiency. It will ultimately help you to choose the right solar panel.

Pros and Cons of Portable Solar Panels

Here are the advantages and limitations of portable solar panels tabulated below that help you to comprehend well and plan accordingly:

S.No Pros Cons
1. Convenient to carry and set up in minutes without worrying about roof damage.  High temperature reduces the panel’s efficiency. 
2. Reduced energy dependence on the grid during peak demand or power outages.  Cannot be used actively as it needs a huge amount of sunlight and a long charging time.   
3. Highly flexible and specifically designed for travellers to provide emergency backups like charging smartphones to laptops.  Higher initial investment despite the decreasing cost of solar panels 

Applications of Portable Solar Panels

Portable Solar panels can practically be used on the go and are a handheld renewable energy solution, having applications mostly for outdoor activities and emergencies such as:

  • Camping: These Portable solar panels can be used in camping to charge electronic gadgets such as — smartphones, GPS units, cameras, camping lights and other equipment.
  • Hiking: For hikers, these portable solar panels can serve as a dependable power source in remote locations.
  • Roving: For outdoor adventures and roving, these portable solar panels can be helpful to power their communication devices and equipment.
  • Boating: In boating, these portable solar panels can be utilized to recharge batteries and provide power to small appliances, making them very important equipment for long journeys.
  • Backup Power for Emergencies: Especially in critical situations like power outages, these portable solar panels can be a lifesaver. Therefore, these panels are capable of supplying power to necessary devices like radios, lights, and mobile phones, keeping you connected and well-informed. Also, they are extremely useful in disaster-prone locations where power outages are a frequent occurrence.
  • Powering Gadgets in Remote Locations: It doesn’t matter if you are on the mountaintop, in the middle of the ocean, or in a remote desert, these portable solar panels are capable of keeping your electronic gadgets powered up. Especially, this technology has become very useful for many researchers, explorers, and adventurers to stay connected or use certain types of equipment in a remote location.
  • Outdoor Structures: One of the major uses, of these Portable solar panels can be used are powering outdoor structures like sheds, fountains, and patios. Also, they are capable of providing adequate light, running water pumps for fountains, and using power tools in sheds. These panels are not only very functional and useful, but also they help to reduce energy costs.

What are the Important Factors to Consider While Choosing a Portable Solar Panel?

charging portable solar panels

To be able to choose the perfectly right portable solar panel, Here are a few important factors to consider:

  • Assess the Energy Needs: The first and foremost important step is to measure your energy needs. It means calculating the total power consumption of all the electronic devices you would likely be using. Power is assessed in watts (W), and energy consumption over time is assessed in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

kilowatt (kW) = 1,000 watts

kilowatt-hour (kWh) = energy consumed if 1kW power is utilized for 1 hour.

You can also learn more about kilowatt (kW) and kilowatt-hour (kWh).

  • Size and Weight: Portable solar panels are available in many sizes and weights. However, the right choice must be made based on your travel needs. For example, If you are planning to take this panel on your hiking or camping trips, then you must prefer a lightweight and compact model.
  • Efficiency: The efficiency of portable solar panels must be importantly considered because more efficiency means more power output from the same amount of sunlight. Especially, it would be very helpful in limited sunlight regions.
  • Durability: Especially for outdoor uses, the durability of portable solar panels is a very important factor to be considered. You must always check for weather-resistant models which are capable of withstanding harsh conditions. Also, make sure to check their warranty time frame, which helps determine quality and durability.
  • Compatibility with Devices: You must make sure that these portable solar panels are compatible with the electronic devices or gadgets that you wish to charge. Also, re-verify the output voltage and current so that they properly match your device requirements.
  • Accessories and Features: A few portable solar panels are equipped with special features that include — water resistance, integrated batteries, and multiple output ports. Hence, these features are capable of enhancing the panel’s usability and convenience.

Best Portable Solar Panels in the Market (2024)

As of today, in 2024, here are the 6 Best Portable solar panels in the market:

Jackery SolarSaga 200: Overall Best Portable Solar Panel with Higher Efficiency, Larger size, lightweight, and not too expensive for its size.

Geneverse SolarPower One: The best affordable portable solar panel.

Oupes Portable Solar Panel 100W: The best lightweight portable solar panel.

Bluetti PV350: The best fast-charging portable solar panel.

EcoFlow 160W Portable Solar Panel: Blends perfect size and output, with durability and waterproofing.

BigBlue SolarPowa 100: 100W Portable Solar Panel: The best budget portable solar panel.

Conclusion

Portable solar panels offer a variety of advantages over conventional ones, as they are compact, lightweight, and easy to carry or set up on-site. The long-life and portability benefits of the solar panel allow you to access solar power in whatever location you are. In addition, panels are easy to assemble and disassemble, which means that no particular technical skills are required. Furthermore, they are quite adaptable to changing sunlight conditions, and they can be simply adjusted to attain optimum sunlight coverage.

A portable solar panel system is an ideal choice for those who value the flexibility, travel-friendliness, and ease of installation of a renewable energy source. In the same way, it is an excellent option for people who would like to back up their power during emergencies such as blackouts.

These transportable solar panels are a completely new invention in renewable energy technologies which provide a flexible, efficient, and eco-friendly replacement to conventional energy sources.

Ray is an avid reader and writer with over 25 years of experience serving various domestic and multinational private and public energy companies in the USA.

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