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Old 25-11-2015, 12:20   #16
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

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Originally Posted by Celestialsailor View Post
If you go cruising, you'll find out in a jiffy when S#*t hits the fan and things are flying around.
We have been cruising and our existing panels are awesome - even - gasp through a tropical storm or two!

Solid panels are heavy, require heavy and complex mounting, and can break off and cause extreme damage to your boat or the neighbors boat during hurricane force winds - like they did when they broke off our house during hurricane Ivan.

I'll take flexible solar panels that can be removed in about 5 minutes and stored under our mattress any day.
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Old 25-11-2015, 12:41   #17
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

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You don't often see flexible panels on boats that really want to generate solar power because 1) they just don't last as long. 2) are less efficient so need more of them 3) decent quality ones are more expensive than rigid panels.

That's why flexible panels generally aren't seen or popular for marine applications.
First off - flexible panels have been the ONLY things I have seen being installed on boats this year. We meet almost all the cruisers coming through St. Augustine through the cruisers net and not one this year was installing solid panels.

1) No - where did you hear that?

Being that the latest generation of flexible solar panels has not been around for more than 5 years or so I can't see how you can make that assumption. And so what... in 5 years go out and buy another set for half what you previously paid.

2) They are less efficient?

They may put out slightly (10 watts) less power but so what... for $80 you get another panel to make up the difference. Set it out a 2 foot by 2 foot panel in the sun when you are lazing somewhere in the Bahamas. Are you thinking of the polycrystal roll up panels from uni-solar? Totally different.

3) Not really.

The cells from Alibaba come from the same manufacturing facilities used for sunpower cells using the same machines by the same people. There is nothing wrong with the quality of foreign panels as a whole. In fact in at least one way (the junction box quality) my experience with them is that they are far superior to the expensive panels on a dollar basis. The value its much much higher per watt.

Think of it this way - the Chinese solar plants put out more solar this year than all the solar produced by any country combined throughout history (they produce 60% of the worlds capacity). They produced so much solar power this summer their aging electrical grid could not take the current and they had to stop output from the panels. They really do know how to produce good solar panels.

I am not convinced that the value proposition of the expensive flexible panels is worth the extreme premium ($1200 vs. $150) or that fixed solid panels are worth the savings.

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I stand corrected, flexible panels have come down in size to be similar to rigid panels. but it does still present the problem of supporting flexible panels.. put them on deck . deffinietly not as they then present a slipping hazard when you walk on them! generally not enough space on a bimini/dodger. means you're back to building a frame to mount them to. Another reason for Rigid panels! stronger and easier to mount!
OK, sorry I did not see this before replying above...

I have 280 watts of normal output flexible panels mounted on my bimini. We also have another 280 flexible mounted on the davits. I chose to use a solid frame when we installed them just because I was also not convinced on their quality or output and wanted the option of switching to solid panels just in case. This has been about two years now. We are eventually building a solid bimini so we will remove the frame then and mount them directly on the top using tenax clips.

We also used a stainless frame on the davits but that was also experimental (we had mounted them on the rails but it disturbed my view of the surroundings). we are rebuilding our arch and will integrate a solid aluminum backing to mount them. I've seen a design where you can slide them out of the frame easily to store away... that appeals to me so I am going to replicate a customized design. All in all, they will end up at about 1/4 of the weight of equivalent solid panels. Something that is important for my particular boat where they are mounted.

I would not choose the cheap flexible panels for the deck... I would also see them as a slipping hazard as well but that goes for solid panels also. You can get walk-on flexible panels for that application - although I would be concerned about dropping a winch handle on them or something.
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Old 25-11-2015, 14:06   #18
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

What are tenax clips?
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Old 25-11-2015, 14:26   #19
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

Who makes the best semi-flex panels? I'm aware of the Solbian ones. I'm looking to replace about 800 watts of mish mash rigid panels that came with the boat, but I want to go to the type with the PV wafers attached to the thin, semi-rigid panels. I've been worrying about heat buildup with no air space behind them, or between the PV and the plastic sheet. Anyone familiar with these for tropical use? We don't go north of the Bahamas.
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Old 25-11-2015, 15:12   #20
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

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Who makes the best semi-flex panels? I'm aware of the Solbian ones. I'm looking to replace about 800 watts of mish mash rigid panels that came with the boat, but I want to go to the type with the PV wafers attached to the thin, semi-rigid panels. I've been worrying about heat buildup with no air space behind them, or between the PV and the plastic sheet. Anyone familiar with these for tropical use? We don't go north of the Bahamas.
Canvas Fasteners, Tenax Self-Locking Canvas Fasteners


We have four solbians. I am unhappy with the quality of their junction box. Other than that there is zero difference in build quality between them and the Chinese panels as far as I can tell. Except the Chinese panels have better glue connecting their junction box and come with the grommets already inserted.

No problem with any heat build up here in Florida.

You will pay about $1500 for a 137 watt solbian panel or 1/10 of that for a 100 watt Chinese panel - same warranty.
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Old 25-11-2015, 15:19   #21
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

I'm not sure how well the Solbians are supported under warranty (probably well), but I can't imagine the panels received off of Aliexpress have any practical warranty -- at least after there initial install. As Zboss points out you could buy 8 cheaper panels for the price of a Solbian and toss out and replace as needed.
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Old 25-11-2015, 15:49   #22
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

Put a lot of these on they are cheap and chearful I bought 3kw and have used 1.3kw They do me just fine and I have spares ! 2 years later and no complaints.. Oh yes the only thing that was wrong is the diodes were put the wrong way around on the 300w panels...
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Old 25-11-2015, 15:55   #23
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

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Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
I'm not sure how well the Solbians are supported under warranty (probably well), but I can't imagine the panels received off of Aliexpress have any practical warranty -- at least after there initial install. As Zboss points out you could buy 8 cheaper panels for the price of a Solbian and toss out and replace as needed.
I had very very good warranty service from Bruce Schwab. So, yes the actual warranty service on the solbians is very good. However, even if I had to go out and order a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Chinese panel to replace the failed one... it would still be cheaper.
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Old 26-11-2015, 06:16   #24
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

There's essentially no such thing as 'warranty' for the stuff we import here. I don't even consider warranty to be a real term. It means nothing. It's too much hassle to pack up, do the paperwork, and ship, and then reimport etc etc. stuff here. I'm only interested in things that have a reputation. User reviews are worth 1000 times warranty. And the Chinese approach to warranty in other things has typically been to just make thing so cheap that they can afford to just replace a faulty one.

When was the last time you saw a Chinese consumer product with a reputation for quality? I can't think of any.
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Old 17-06-2016, 00:28   #25
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

So my two 100watt flex panels finally died at close to 3 years. The panels have been significantly hazed over for the 18 months but still delivering near expected output. They had a life mostly in the tropics with some significant passages. One panel has some internal connection that died. Haven't anlysized the other one. They cost me $490us delivered, so about $160 a year or maybe the price of 30-35 gallons of diesel. Probably still a reasonable deal.
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Old 17-06-2016, 01:19   #26
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

Mine was good. But you didn't explain how your experience turns out.
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Old 17-06-2016, 01:27   #27
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Re: Buying solar panels from Alibaba?

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Mine was good. But you didn't explain how your experience turns out.
Huh, I said the panels died after 3 years, as in no longer functional.
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