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Old 08-06-2018, 12:56   #1
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Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

Not talking flexible, talking foldable... basically group of small panels mounted on fabric so they can fold on top of each other. Actually have a small GoalZero 27w panel that's great for river trips / backpacking, but that's all I saw for years was 16w / 25w etc, now I came across this 120 watt panel:
https://www.amazon.com/Aims-PV120CAS...P2/ref=sr_1_10


This is an intriguing idea for me. I have 200 watts mounted on my stern pushpit, but on a 32' (and a small one relative to today's 32') monohull without bimini or arch I don't have many other options for additional panels.


I could envision using this one with a long (appropriately sized, probably 8 or 10awg) extension cord and placing it anywhere on deck that was appropriate once we're not moving, then connect it to a (suddenly very reasonably priced) Victron 75/10.


Seems easy to setup, easy to store solution to adding another 120w of power.


So, being the cynic that I am, I have to imagine there's something I'm missing here... inferior cells, inferior build quality, shorting of wires after folding / unfolding a few times.


Anyone have any experience?


-- Bass
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Old 08-06-2018, 13:08   #2
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

For half the price you can buy a 100W panel from vendors who have sold way more than two units. And why a vendor would hype the 'organic' cloth carrying case, makes me wonder what they are selling.

Buy a flat panel, there's less that can go wrong (connections, mounting) and you can just stow it behind a settee, or up against the overhead, or put a swing-up mount on the rail.

For $200 you can buy two conventional panels, more power, just as easy to set up. Stow 'em just like hatchboards.
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Old 08-06-2018, 13:11   #3
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Buy a flat panel, there's less that can go wrong (connections, mounting) and you can just stow it behind a settee, or up against the overhead, or put a swing-up mount on the rail.

I am way up against the limit for storage which is why this caught me eye. We have two 100w panels that mount on the pushpit rails, they're really pairs of 50w with a piano hinge in them, and even so they take up so much room in our salon when not on the rail they're just a PITA.
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Old 08-06-2018, 14:46   #4
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

If there's no place to stow them, then you're stuck. I just don't feel comfortable with a vendor that has only had two sales, and is making a big deal out of "organic" fabric on their solar panels. It just isn't possible to tell which solar panels are good or bad from a quick look, and by the time you find out...TFB.
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Old 08-06-2018, 20:07   #5
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

Yeah, had posted that particular set as more of an example, figured I'd look for more reliable reviewed / vetted sources if the idea appealed to me.

Of course then I found these guys:
https://www.powerfilmsolar.com/produ...rdsPerPage=max
... whose spec sheet says "Not designed for use in the rain".


There are definitely a couple of other reasonably reviewed panels on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...le+solar+panel
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Old 08-06-2018, 21:40   #6
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

When I look at these things I always want to know the source of the cells. The construction of the modules is critical (such as whether or not folding breaks wires) but if you start with crap cells you just can't go up from there. So I'd ask specifically whose cells they use.

If the photos are real (and that can be a big if in the online sales world) the cells are IBC (integrated back contact) cells - there are no small wires running across the front of the cells. There are few commercial sources of IBC, Sunpower being the largest, but Panasonic HIT cells are also IBC, and Trina solar has announced IBC cells several times, although whether or not they are available on the market I don't know. Regardless, if they are IBC cells then they are relatively new and proprietary technology, which in turn indicates (but does not prove) that the cells come for a first tier supplier. They could be grey market/rejects/etc. even if they do come from a reputable manufacturer.

I'd also ask if they provide an output guarantee, anyone reputable should. The guarantee is only as good as the company that provides it....
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Old 09-06-2018, 09:07   #7
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

I just bought one of these:
Aims Power PV120CASE 120W Foldable, 120 Watt Portable Solar Panel With Built In Carrying Case, Natural Organic https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078K5WHP2?ref=yo_pop_ma_swf
Wired it up to a blue sky mttp controller. Super compact and very light. Easy to stow. I am concerned about the longevity and will not be leaving it outside for extended periods. I suspect the sun will attack the thread and cloth eventually or maybe the hinge connecting will fail. Time will tell if this works out. Fits great on my bimini whereas the 100w ridged panels have no place to go unless I install a sturdy arch. $$$
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Old 09-06-2018, 09:14   #8
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

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Originally Posted by Mr O View Post
I just bought one of these:
Aims Power PV120CASE 120W Foldable, 120 Watt Portable Solar Panel With Built In Carrying Case, Natural Organic https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078K5WHP2?ref=yo_pop_ma_swf
Wired it up to a blue sky mttp controller. Super compact and very light. Easy to stow. I am concerned about the longevity and will not be leaving it outside for extended periods. I suspect the sun will attack the thread and cloth eventually or maybe the hinge connecting will fail. Time will tell if this works out. Fits great on my bimini whereas the 100w ridged panels have no place to go unless I install a sturdy arch. $$$

That is exactly the one that caught my eye. I agree on the longevity, but these would only be out when I was away from the dock, I'm not expecting them to hold up like a rigid aluminum frame panel you can leave out for years at a time.



Was going to combine it with a Victron 75/10. Do you feel like you're getting good output, i.e. what you ought to from a 120w panel?


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Old 09-06-2018, 09:34   #9
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

Of course, I could try to get "handy" and DIY... having trouble figuring out right search term for the lighter weight style panels (I don't really need the cost of semi flexible), but figure if I bought 4 25w panels like these:
https://www.amazon.com/ACOPOWER-Poly.../dp/B01G82P6L6



... sew up some Sunbrella to mount them to so they can fold up and I would have a similar product to what's out there commercially.


Plus to the DIY is I would know more about the panels themselves and whether they were good panels, and I could run each pair in parallel and then put the pairs in series for a 24v overall panel instead of 12v (since this would be a mobile item I am not as concerned about shading since I would, theoretically, move it out of the shade).


Downside is I would be doing all the wiring between panels, so there's certainly potential for shoddy workmanship
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Old 09-06-2018, 17:55   #10
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

Too cloudy here the past few days to test output.
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Old 09-06-2018, 19:28   #11
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr O View Post
I just bought one of these:
Aims Power PV120CASE 120W Foldable, 120 Watt Portable Solar Panel With Built In Carrying Case, Natural Organic https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078K5WHP2?ref=yo_pop_ma_swf
Wired it up to a blue sky mttp controller. Super compact and very light. Easy to stow. I am concerned about the longevity and will not be leaving it outside for extended periods. I suspect the sun will attack the thread and cloth eventually or maybe the hinge connecting will fail. Time will tell if this works out. Fits great on my bimini whereas the 100w ridged panels have no place to go unless I install a sturdy arch. $$$
Just saw another one on Amazon that claimed suitability for RVs, boats, camping, etc., but then cautioned about minimizing moisture exposure so as to not damage electrical components.

If I might ask, how do you plan on securing it to your bimini when you do take it out? Velcro? Is there room to install grommets or small loops where lanyards could be attached? I've read on other threads that the key to longevity for any sort of non-rigid panel is to have it installed as secure as possible to minimize movement from wind, etc. I also noticed it did not come with MC4 connectors. Is it recommended to wire these in?

Although I have a larger boat than the OP, I have also been struggling to figure out where to install my first panel or two with no arch on the stern.

Thanks.
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Old 09-06-2018, 21:55   #12
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

No grommets on this folding panel, unfortunately. The cable has only spade terminals which I cut off and attached marine butt connectors to extend the length. Very temporary setup for fair weather. I will check to see if grommets can be added so the panel can be secured to bimini.
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Old 10-06-2018, 05:58   #13
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr O View Post
No grommets on this folding panel, unfortunately. The cable has only spade terminals which I cut off and attached marine butt connectors to extend the length. Very temporary setup for fair weather. I will check to see if grommets can be added so the panel can be secured to bimini.

Should be a quick fix with a simple grommet kit:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...ilpage_o06_s00
... I guess just be gentle when pounding the grommets on!


"Temporary setup for fair weather" is exactly what I had in mind for something like this, if it's snotty I'll leave this packed up below and rely on my two solid framed 100 watt panels that are permanently mounted.
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Old 10-06-2018, 06:47   #14
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

Australia has decent CP-mandated guarantees, and this type of portable panel aka "solar blankets" are getting pretty common in that market.

I would trust brands sold there more than online in the US.

I believe usually a regulator is included, usually for laptop and USB charging, so some DIY would likely be required to run their output directly into a standard SC.

Although 19V laptop output would likely be fine as input into a standard SC.
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Old 10-06-2018, 07:03   #15
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Re: Foldable solar panels at larger wattages... any experiences?

Bass, until half way through a cruise last year we had a 60w version to supplement our 150w panel on a stern arch. Since it was easy to move about the boat as the sun moved around it always produced lots of power, well as much as a 60w panel could be expected to do and really helped to top off the bank by lunchtime.

I propped it against the mast and supported at the base on the cabin top hand holds. We went ashore one morning and came back to to find it had moved and smashed one side. The glass had shattered but not come out of the aluminium frame. Took the difficult decision to bin it rather than deal with glass splinters on the boat for the rest of the trip. It disappeared from the skip area in a couple of hours, hopefully someone can make use of it.

So we got 3 seasons out of it and it wasn't new when we bought it, deploying it in harbour or at anchor. The ability to move it easily meant it really maxed the charging ability. The tricky choice now is what to replace it with. Either another slightly larger or a single, long thin 90w panel which will fit nicely against the rear cabin side and not take up any room yet be secure. The jury is out and the search for a second hand one on again. Down side is the glass and the aluminium frame risked scratching the woodwork being moved in and out of the yacht.

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