Choosing the best flexible solar panel for your boat is an important part of your green technology and solar power investment.

As one of the best green options available for boats, solar panels have a lot to offer!

With an investment in a solar panel, you can reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and reduce your reliance on shore power.

bendable solar panel

This article is about the best flexible and semi-flexible solar panels for boats. Read on to learn how they can help with charging your lighting and entertainment while on the water!

Flexible solar panels: what are they?

Thin-film solar cells are a type of second-generation solar cell constructed by layering many thin films of photovoltaic material on a foundation made of plastic, metal, or glass.

As a result, the panel is significantly thinner than standard monocrystalline or polycrystalline solar panels, making them more flexible and lighter.

This also means that the roof just needs to hold a relatively light construction without the requirement for heavy racks. The cost of production is likewise reduced, lowering the cost of purchase.

Thin-film panels also feature a unique layered arrangement that maximizes the ability of each material to absorb light. This is so that when the cells are in shade or cloud, they don’t lose as much efficiency as other models.

It goes without saying that this technology is extremely adaptable and has a wide range of applications, including for your marine solar system! You can get flexible solar panels for RV or car, as well as for your boat!

What are flexible marine solar panels?

Marine solar panels are flat, flexible circuits that convert sunlight into electricity or energy, while still simulating the same output as other marine panels.

Flexible solar panels for boats are available in many different shapes, but all generate power if they can catch enough sun.

Flexible marine solar panels

Flexible marine solar panels provide electricity but are probably not the best choice for heavy-duty applications like powering motors (starting or running). They are ideally suited for supplemental charging of battery systems and maintaining battery life between uses/charges.

Features of flexible solar panels

  • They come in sizes ranging from 3-watt to 300-watt and may be readily fastened to anything using the specifically designed corners, such as the top of the cabin or the boat deck.
  • The watertight junction box and MC4 connectors make connecting to the battery storage straightforward and quick.
  • They are built from back-connected mono-crystalline cells, giving them a high level of efficiency.
  • The cells maximize efficiency and produce a more powerful panel even on cloudy days or unfavorable conditions, to give you the highest potential output.

What are the different types of flexible solar panels?

There are two types of flexible solar panels: thin film and crystalline silicon.

Thin-film

With a thin-film solar panel, the photovoltaic material is deposited onto a surface. One of the great benefits of thin-film solar cells is their flexibility because they can be rolled and bent. This makes them ideal for marine solar panels!

They may be used on a variety of surfaces, including glass, metal, and even fabrics. Because of its features, thin-film is also utilized to produce highly flexible, tiny solar panels for portable applications.

Technician holding a solar cell printed on flexible film.

These are the most affordable solar panels available. The reason for this is that they require far less material to make and hence are less expensive.

When compared to other panels they are extremely flexible, making them more adaptable and even more resistant to high temperatures.

Crystalline Silicon

The majority of solar panels on the market today are rigid panels constructed of silicon, which is the main component of beach sand!

Polycrystalline panels and monocrystalline panels are the two varieties of solar cells currently available on the market. Cells are manufactured by cutting silicon wafers from a block in both cases. The cells are connected to form a panel.

Solar Panel

Each wafer in a traditional panel is thick and inflexible. However, cutting the wafer thinly enough allows them to become fairly flexible while still preserving their photovoltaic capabilities.

Furthermore, these cells can be built from the same silicon as traditional panels, particularly high-efficiency monocrystalline, resulting in cost savings. 

What’s the difference between Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline panels?

Polycrystalline cells

These solar cells are rectangular in shape and come in a speckled blue color. They are created by melting raw silicon, which is a considerably cheaper and faster method, resulting in a substantially lower cost. Polycrystalline panels are less space-efficient and less powerful.

Monocrystalline panels

Solar cells produced from the purest type of silicon are used in these panels.

When compared to polycrystalline devices, this makes them more efficient, as well as a compact and long-lasting solution. They are, however, more pricey.

The rounded angles and dark, monochromatic look of these cells distinguish them.

Best solar panels: top five flexible solar panels for boats

A lightweight semi-flexible panel surface is ideal for marine solar panels where boats may rock back and forth while moving on the water and during rough weather conditions.

And because they are so thin, these flexible solar panels work great with uneven surfaces—like curved cabin roofs! Overall for a marine installation, these products will do a great job at keeping your lithium batteries charged.

Whatever power output you want from a solar system, we’ve taken a look at some of the best products available to help you choose a solar panel system that works best for your boat!

Super Thin Lamination
Renogy Flexible Solar Panel 175 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline
8.9/10 Our Score

The latest in monocrystalline solar panel technology, this high-quality Renogy ultra-flexible solar panel boasts many features that make it stand out against the competition.

About this item:

  • Dimensions: 59.2 x 26.5 x 0.08 in
  • Weight: 6.2lbs
  • Package includes NC4 connectors with cables and an IP68-rated waterproof junction box

Pros:

  • Bending up to 248 degrees, this super-flexible panel is perfect for applications where standard panels can be inconvenient to mount, such as on the curved cabin of a boat
  • Rated at 2,400Pa, this solar panel can withstand the strong winds encountered at sea
  • This thin panel exploits a light-bending trick so that it tracks the sun from sunrise to sundown!
High Efficiency
WERCHTAY Flexible Solar Panel 100W 12v Monocrystalline Bendable Solar Panel
9/10 Our Score

This flexible solar panel is perfect for off-grid living spaces with curved surfaces. Rated to withstand strong winds up to 2,400Pa, this is a great solar panel for your boat!

Product Information:

  • Brand: WERCHTAY
  • Material: Monocrystalline Silicon
  • Dimensions: 31.1 x 27.1 x 0.12 inches
  • Size: 27.1×31.1×0.12 inch
  • Weight: 3.75 Pounds
  • Warranty: 5 years

Pros:

  • Easy to install
  • Durable
  • High efficiency rating and good flexibility
  • Each of these solar panels is rigorously tested and examined before leaving the factory.
     
Good Flexibility
Topsolar Flexible Solar Panel 100W 24v/12v Monocrystalline Bendable
9.1/10 Our Score

A topsolar flexible panel can achieve a minimum arc radius of 40 cm (15.75 in), making it ideal for irregular surfaces such as on boats and yachts!

At only 0.1 inches tall and weighing 3.97 pounds, this solar panel is easy to transport and install.

Technical Specifications:

  • Product Dimensions: ‎ 42.3 x 20.4 x 0.1 inches
  • Weight: 3.97 lbs.
  • Size: ‎100W
  • Material: Monocrystalline Silicon
  • Maximum power: ‎ 100 Watts

This solar panel is perfect for charging the 12-volt batteries on your boat and to charge 24/48 volt batteries multiple panels can be linked in series.

Excellent Performance
Socentralar Flexible Solar Panel Kit 80W 18v
9.2/10 Our Score

This Socentralar flexible solar cell uses high-quality monocrystalline silicon cells to provide good performance even in low light conditions.

About this item:

  • Material: Monocrystalline Silicon
  • Dimensions: 39.37 x 19.69 x 0.12 inches
  • Maximum power: 80 Watts

Package includes:

  • 1 x 80W Solar panel
  • 1 x PV cable 3m/2.5mm
  • 1 x Alligator cable 3m/2.5mm
  • 1 x 10A 12V/24V PWM Solar Controller
  • 1 x adapter


Features:

  • The thickness is only 3mm, making it simple to attach to your yacht or boat, or other curved structure
  • Can be walked on with soft-soled shoes!
  • Lightweight, easy to transport and install
  • The hardening procedure protects the surface from scratches
  • High efficiency crystalline solar panel up to 21%
  • Can bend up to an angle of 30 degrees
Semi-Flexible
Xinpuguang Solar Panel 100W 12V Monocrystalline Flexible
9/10 Our Score

With a conversion rate of up to 22%, the XINPUGUANG monocrystalline silicon solar panel can maximize solar energy conversion for your boat. It is environmentally friendly and energy-efficient!

About this item:

  • Power: 100W
  • Size: 525mm x 1030mm x 2.55mm
  • Weight: 1.85kg
  • Bends up to a 30-degree arc

Pros:

  • Ultra-thin and lightweight
  • Easy installation and very easy to use
  • Ideal for use outdoors and flexible design makes it great for a boat
  • It can be used as an emergency power output or for regular charging of batteries

Cons:

  • Manufacturer does not offer an extended warranty

Benefits of flexible marine solar panels

For a marine solar system, there are many benefits with flexible panels, including that flexible panels are easy to install on irregular surfaces such as those on a boat. They also allow you to ‘hide’ them, as opposed to the traditional panel that has fewer options for installation on a boat.

Some of the benefits of flexible solar panels include:

They are long-lasting

Flexible solar panels are typically built to last a lifetime and are designed to not deteriorate in harsh conditions.

Can be placed in tight areas

Traditional marine panels can’t be placed in tight areas due to their rigid construction. On the other hand, flexible panels can be placed just about anywhere on your boat!

Easy to install

Due to their simple design, flexible solar panels are easy to install.

Waterproof

Marine panels need to be sealed from the elements. As you saw in our review above, flexible solar panels can be installed in almost any environment and come with rated waterproof components.

Affordable

These flexible panels are smaller and lighter than a traditional panel, meaning they are also cheaper to buy!

What to consider when buying a flexible solar panel for your boat?

When looking for the most suitable solar panel type to fit your boat’s needs, there are dozens of fantastic choices available! We have shown you our top five rated panels for a marine solar system to help you decide!

Flexible panels

Unlike house roofs that are flat and can make use of rigid panels, boats have many curved surfaces.

Solar panels on a boat should be of flexible design so that they can adapt to locations where solar power is most effective.

Waterproof

Your solar panels will get wet since they will be exposed to the sea! So make sure they’re resilient against the damage caused by water, including the components used to link the solar cells to the battery pack.

Shade

Flexible solar panels are influenced by a variety of factors such as the brightness of the light and the sun’s angle. Their conversion efficiency and maximum output will alter as the environment changes.

Try to utilize your flexible solar panel on your boat in a location that gives direct sunlight and avoid placing it in a shadow.

FAQs

Do flexible solar panels have a long lifespan?

Flexible solar panels are resilient but can be more susceptible to breakage than rigid solar panels if not handled correctly, so they may not last long if you are not careful.

To recharge my boat battery, what size flexible solar panel would I need?

Depending on your energy usage, a 100W or 150W solar panel would be recommended to keep the boat’s battery topped up. You can always add more panels if you need extra power or have multiple batteries.

Is it possible for flexible solar panels to overheat?

When a solar panel overheats, its efficiency reduces and it will lose a significant amount of the energy it would normally collect from the sun. If your solar panel overheats, the module’s effectiveness and efficiency will decrease.

Marine solar cells are designed to be used on boats and yachts, so you shouldn’t have any issues with overheating.

How are solar panels designed to be flexible?

Flexible solar panels, unlike traditional solar panels or roll-up solar panels, are created by overlaying one or more thin photovoltaic (PV) sheets on an underlying layer of plastic, glass, or metal.

As a result, the solar panel is significantly thinner than traditional solar panels, allowing it to be more bendable and lighter.

Is an air gap required for flexible solar panels?

The use of an air gap beneath solar panels can help to keep the panels cool.

However, you can install your marine solar panel directly to a surface as it doesn’t always need to have ventilation beneath them.

The absence of an air gap below them has no effect on their operational design features.