When people think of solar power systems, they think of huge panels on the roof of a building. Solar technology has improved significantly, and today, homeowners, hikers, campers, and other adventurous individuals can invest in portable solar panels to make the most of natural sunlight anywhere they go.
Owing to the continued use of fossil fuels and non-renewable energy, climate change is pushing the world to a climate catastrophe. Fortunately, the deployment of portable solar panels can play a major role in achieving net-zero emissions in the energy sector and generate renewable energy that is going to help limit the warming of the climate.
Lightweight, portable solar panels are quite beneficial as they can fit in any solar-system setup. For example, if your roof is not strong enough to bear the weight of regular solar panels, you can invest in lightweight, portable solar panels without weakening the structural integrity of your roof. They have a thin film that substantially reduces their weight. Moreover, they can be shaped to fit the dimensions of the installation space, which makes them perfect for uneven surfaces.
If you are interested in investing in portable solar panels, you might want to learn more about them. Continue reading as we talk about ways to maximize the efficiency of portable solar panels.
What Are Portable Solar Panels?
Portable solar panels are solar energy-generating panels encased in a protective cover that’s made of plastic or mesh fabric. The small-sized panels can produce up to 50 watts of electricity, whereas larger panels can produce 300 watts or more – the same as a regular rooftop panel. The small panels are usually a single sheet of silicon solar cells, whereas larger ones typically have three to four panels in a foldable case.
Portable solar panels come with a set of jacks to supply power to a number of devices. You are highly likely to find a DC output jack along with a USB port through which you can directly charge your laptop or phone.
In most cases, portable solar panels come with portable lithium-ion batteries, allowing you to store the energy from the sun and use it at night. The battery can have a larger number of output devices, from regular 120-volt alternating current outlets to direct current output jacks.
Setting up portable solar panels for your homes takes only a couple of minutes and does not require any permits or inspections. Plus, you don’t have to worry about any sort of roof damage.
All solar photovoltaic panels are made of crystalline silicon wafers that capture and absorb sunlight. The light rays from the sun knock the electrons loose from the silicon material, which creates a current along the electrical conductors in the cells. The current moves in one direction – DC, or direct current – out from the cells, either directly into a device that works on DC power or indirectly through an inverter to produce an AC output for most household applications.
What Is Solar Panel Efficiency?
A solar panel’s efficiency indicates its ability to convert sunlight into usable energy. For instance, if sunlight hits a solar panel with an efficiency rating of 20%, it means that 20% of the sun’s energy will be converted to solar power.
When the same amount of sunlight falls on two solar panels with varying levels of efficiency for the same period of time, the panel with higher efficiency is going to generate more electricity than the panel with a lower efficiency rating. The production of energy by solar cells impacts solar panel efficiency, which is influenced by the composition of the cells, along with their electrical setup, surrounding components, and other factors.
How to Get the Maximum Solar Panels Efficiency?
Here are some ways you can use to maximize the efficiency of portable solar panels.
1. Choose Solar Panels with a High-Efficiency Rating
When it comes to efficiency, some portable solar panels are better than others. The following are the types of portable solar panels:
- Amorphous Silicon Solar Cells: Made with silicon deposits in the thin layer, amorphous silicon offers more efficient light absorption compared to crystalline silicon.
- Hybrid Silicon Solar Cells: A combination of monocrystalline and amorphous solar cells, hybrid silicon solar cells can offer an efficiency of 18%. The disadvantage of this kind of solar panel is that it’s extremely expensive.
- Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Cells: These portable solar cells contain high levels of pure silicon and are highly recognizable by their even and uniform appearance and color. Monocrystalline solar panels provide a high-efficiency rating that ranges from 15% to 20%, require less space to generate the same output, and have a longer life span. Plus, it can also produce electricity even in low-light conditions.
- Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Cell: The polycrystalline silicon cell uses a low-cost process compared to the monocrystalline silicon solar cells. The disadvantage of this cell is that its efficiency is not as high as the monocrystalline panels. It even requires a large surface area to generate a high amount of electricity.
At BLUETTI, we offer a vast range of portable solar panels with an incredible efficiency rating of 23.4%! You can check out our range of portable solar panels for your home here.
2. Keep Your Solar Panels Clean
As solar panels don’t have any moving parts, they require minimal maintenance. Nevertheless, it is best to clean them every few months as dirt and dust can accumulate on them and reduce their efficiency.
Over a period of 12 months, dirt and dust might only lead to a 5% decline in energy output. However, if they get extremely dirty, the decline in output can be higher than 20%. In fact, CleanTechnica reported an analysis stating that solar panels lose approximately 30% if not cleaned properly. Moreover, a study published in 2017 found that because of the accumulation of dust, the efficiency of solar panels and modules in terms of power can go down to 60%. Thus, cleaning your portable solar panels regularly is a pretty good idea.
Ideally, you should clean the solar panels according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. You should avoid using extremely hot or extremely cold water to clean the panels, as the difference in the water’s temperature can cause the glass on the panels to crack.
In addition, you should never use harsh chemicals on your solar panels, as they can get damaged over time. You might also be tempted to use a high-pressure hose, but the best way to clean a solar panel is with a soft brush or rag and a bucket of water. This will prevent you from damaging the solar panel’s cells.
3. Place the Portable Solar Panels at the Right Angle
The angle at which you place your portable solar panels can have a huge impact on their efficiency. When the sun is directly overhead, it’s going to be more difficult for solar panels to produce electricity. As the sun moves lower into the sky, the angle of incidence increases, which means more light hits your panels.
There are plenty of ways to place your solar panels to get maximum solar panels efficiency. These include:
- Position them at an angle of 45 degrees from the horizontal. This is the best angle for absorbing sunlight and converting it into electricity.
- If you use more than one solar panel, position them next to each other so they can get the highest amount of sunlight.
4. Avoid Placing the Panels in the Shade
As solar panels produce electricity from sunlight, it makes sense that shade negatively impacts electrical output. Nevertheless, a lot of solar panel users are not aware of the impact of shade on a series of solar panels.
Keep in mind that even if one photovoltaic cell is under shade, it can affect the electricity produced by its neighboring cell. This is because the cell starts to act as a resistor.
Tall buildings, trees, and large vehicles are the three key hindrances when it comes to shading solar panels. Thus, make sure you place your portable solar panels at a site where shade is not going to be a problem.
5. Use Reflectors
Use reflectors to boost the efficiency of portable solar panels and make the most out of them. Reflectors are essentially pieces of metal that direct the sun’s rays toward your portable solar panel, increasing its exposure to sunlight and allowing it to generate more electricity.
Reflectors can be made from aluminum foils or sheets. You can even use mirrors in place of aluminum sheets; they work just like reflectors made with aluminum foil or sheets but are costlier than these materials. If you’re using large reflectors, such as those built for RVs or caravans, you should set them up on a tripod so that they don’t move around in the wind.
6. Use the Right Cables
One way to increase solar panels' longevity is to make sure you connect them using the right connectors and cables. You cannot use any connector or cable for your system. For example, if you have a 12-volt battery and wish to charge it using a solar panel, you’ll have to get a 12-volt cable. If you don’t have the right cable, your battery won’t charge as efficiently as it would otherwise.
7. Invest in Anti-Reflection Coatings
Anti-reflection coatings allow photovoltaic cells to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. Without these coatings, over 30% of the light that reaches your panels will not be absorbed and converted into electricity.
The photovoltaic cells in premium-quality portable solar panels have anti-reflection coatings that prevent energy loss due to reflection. Such coatings make sure that your portable panels get the highest level of the sun’s rays.
Note that cells with a textured surface also have anti-reflective properties. Thus, when you are shopping for portable solar panels, ask what has been done to minimize reflection.
Last Few Words
A lot of individuals are investing in portable solar panels as a way of saving money and lowering their carbon footprint. However, if you don’t position or maintain them correctly, you probably won't get the highest efficiency with it comes to electricity output. We hope this article helps you maximize your benefits from solar equipment. If you have any questions about the right solar products for you, feel free to contact our customer care team. They’ll be happy to guide you.