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Flexible Solar Panels: Efficient Energy Solutions Explained

In recent years, the solar energy industry has experienced significant growth, and flexible solar panels have emerged as a popular option in the UK market. These ultra-thin silicon wafers can convert sunlight into electricity, providing a sustainable and efficient solution for a variety of applications.

Flexible solar panels offer several advantages over traditional rigid panels. They are lightweight, easy to transport, and versatile in their application. For example, they can be used on curved surfaces like the roofs of boats, motorhomes, or caravans. Additionally, these panels are durable and weather-resistant, making them a reliable choice for generating clean energy in the UK's varied climate conditions.

Increased demand for solar energy has led to constant advancement and improvement of flexible panels' efficiency and design. As a result, more and more people are considering this eco-friendly alternative to meet their energy needs. From off-grid holidays to DIY and lighting installations, flexible solar panels provide a convenient and sustainable solution for a wide array of energy requirements.

Understanding Flexible Solar Panels

flexible solar panels

Flexible solar panels are an innovative alternative to traditional rigid solar panels, offering unique advantages and applications.

Technology and Materials

Flexible solar panels are made up of ultra-thin silicon wafers that efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. These panels are thinner, lighter, and more versatile than their rigid counterparts, which are made up of thicker and heavier silicon sheets. Instead of glass or aluminum, flexible solar panels are commonly made from metal or plastic substrates, with one or more layers of thin photovoltaic film applied.


Flexible solar panels offer several benefits, including:

  • Lightweight : Due to their thinness, they weigh significantly less than traditional panels, making them easier to transport and install.
  • Versatility : They can be mounted on curved surfaces or bent around corners, enabling installation on a wider variety of surfaces and structures.
  • Aesthetics: Flexible panels can blend seamlessly with the contours of the roof, offering a visually appealing option for solar installations on homes and buildings.


Despite their advantages, flexible solar panels also have some limitations:

  • Efficiency: Flexible panels typically have lower efficiency rates compared to rigid panels; thin-film panels can have efficiencies of up to around 13% while monocrystalline systems can reach up to 25%.
  • Durability: Due to the thinness and composition of the materials used, flexible solar panels may not be as durable as traditional panels and may be more susceptible to wear and tear.

Given the benefits and limitations of flexible solar panels, selecting the best option for a particular installation requires careful consideration of the specific application and requirements.

UK Market Overview

Leading Manufacturers and Suppliers

In the United Kingdom, flexible solar panels are becoming increasingly popular. One of the major manufacturers in this sector is Power Roll, a UK-based company that recently inaugurated its pilot solar film manufacturing facility in County Durham, North East England. Other key players in the flexible solar panel market include international companies such as Europe and the United States, along with China, which was supported by the Chinese government.

Industry Growth Trends

Flexible solar panels are witnessing a surge in demand due to their lightweight, thin, and adaptable design. According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the UK solar power market, including flexible solar panels, is expected to register a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of more than 5% during the forecast period (2022-2027). This growth can be attributed to the increasing focus on renewable energy sources and government-incentivised solar projects across the nation.

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    With the United Kingdom striving to achieve its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, solar power has become an essential component of the nation's energy mix. Flexible solar panels, in particular, are expected to see significant advancements as technologies continue to develop and novel applications emerge. Developments in sectors such as electric vehicles, building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), and portable power systems are expected to further drive demand for flexible solar panels in the UK market.

    Applications in the UK

    Flexible solar panels offer a wide range of applications across various sectors in the UK. This section discusses their use in residential settings, outdoor and recreational activities, and industrial and commercial premises.

    Residential Use

    Flexible solar panels are becoming an increasingly popular choice for homeowners in the UK, as they can easily be adapted to suit the shape and curvature of various surfaces, such as roofs and balconies . These lightweight modules are made of less substantial silicon sheets, making them more versatile than their conventional counterparts.

    UK homeowners can benefit from the following advantages of flexible solar panels:

    • Wider range of applications
    • Easy integration into building design
    • Enhanced aesthetics due to their thin, unobtrusive design
    • Likely cost savings over time compared to traditional solar panels

    Outdoor and Recreational Activities

    Thanks to their portability and adaptability, flexible solar panels are ideal for off-grid applications such as camping, caravans, motorhomes or boats. Their lightweight and bendable nature allows for easy transport and installation in remote or challenging environments.

    Some common uses of flexible solar panels in outdoor and recreational activities include:

    • Providing portable power for electronic devices
    • Charging batteries in boats, motorhomes or caravans
    • Powering outdoor lighting systems

    Industrial and Commercial Sectors

    Flexible solar panels offer innovative solutions for businesses and industries looking to adopt sustainable energy practices. New manufacturing facilities, such as the one in County Durham, are emerging in the UK to meet the growing demand for flexible PV modules in industrial and commercial settings.

    Some notable advantages of flexible solar panels in these sectors include:

    • Potential for lower installation and maintenance costs
    • Improved aesthetics, suitable for visually-sensitive areas
    • Compatibility with unconventional or curved surfaces
    • Easier integration into building management systems

    Overall, flexible solar panels are proving to be a valuable addition to the renewable energy landscape in the UK, offering versatile solutions for residential, outdoor, and industrial applications.

    Installation and Maintenance

    Considerations for Installation

    When planning for the installation of flexible solar panels, it's essential to consider several factors. These include the location, orientation, and tilt angle to ensure maximum sun exposure and energy generation. Additionally, it's vital to ensure safe and secure mounting to avoid damage to the panels or the surface they are attached to.

    Flexible solar panels are lightweight and can be installed on curved surfaces or irregularly shaped roofs due to their flexibility. However, it's essential to avoid extreme bending or applying too much pressure on the panels to prevent damage to the solar cells and a reduction in efficiency.

    Maintenance Tips

    While solar panels have no moving parts and require minimal maintenance, it's crucial to keep an eye on their performance and clean them regularly to maintain optimal efficiency. Routine checks on the panel's surface for dirt, debris, and other obstructions can help prevent issues that may lead to reduced energy generation.

    In most cases, average rainfall can aid in cleaning solar panels, but it's still advisable to schedule an annual service to ensure the system is operating effectively. Service check-ups can help identify any faults or drops in generation and allow for immediate resolutions.

    Best Practices

    Following best practices for the installation and maintenance of flexible solar panels can significantly improve their performance and lifespan. Here are a few suggestions:

    • Ensure a secure and stable installation to avoid movement or detachment of panels.
    • Avoid shading or partially covering the panels, which can result in a decrease in output power.
    • Regularly check for any visible signs of damage or wear on the panels and address issues immediately.
    • Monitor the inverter's performance and check for error messages or warning lights to identify potential problems.

    By adhering to these best practices and maintaining a proactive approach to the care and upkeep of flexible solar panels, you can ensure optimal energy generation and longevity of the system.

    Financial Aspects

    Cost Comparison with Traditional Solar Panels

    Flexible solar panels are an attractive alternative to traditional solar panels, mainly due to their ability to adapt to different surfaces and applications. The cost of flexible solar panels can often be lower than their traditional counterparts, making them a viable option for a wide range of budgets. For instance, it is possible to install a 4kWh system of 16 flexible solar panels for less than £5,000, which is typically lower than prices of standard panels.

    Funding, Grants and Incentives

    There are various funding opportunities, grants and incentives available for the installation of solar panels in the UK. Some of these schemes are specifically designed to encourage homeowners and businesses to switch to renewable energy sources by offering financial support for the installation of solar panels.

    • Feed-in Tariff (FiT): Although the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme closed to new applications in 2019, those who have already installed solar panels under the FiT scheme continue to receive payments for the clean energy they produce.
    • Smart Export Guarantee (SEG): In 2020, the UK government introduced the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme, replacing the FiT. Under the SEG, energy suppliers are obligated to pay small-scale renewable energy generators, including solar panel owners, for the excess electricity they export back to the grid.
    • Green Homes Grant: Homeowners in England can apply for a Green Homes Grant voucher to help cover the cost of installing energy-efficient home improvements, including solar panels. This scheme allows eligible homeowners to receive up to £5,000 (or £10,000 for those on low incomes) as a contribution towards solar panel installation.

    These funding opportunities and incentives can make the installation of flexible solar panels even more affordable, improving the overall return on investment for homeowners and businesses who choose to adopt this technology.

    Environmental Impact

    Flexible solar panels have been gaining popularity in the UK due to their various advantages over traditional solar panels, such as their lighter weight, easier installation, and wider range of application possibilities. As with any technology, understanding their environmental impact is essential to assessing their true benefits.

    Carbon Footprint and Energy Efficiency

    The production and use of flexible solar panels can contribute positively to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. With their improved conversion efficiency and faster installation times, they have the potential to decrease the carbon footprint per unit of energy produced when compared to traditional solar panels.

    Furthermore, their ability to be integrated into various surfaces with ease, such as building facades and vehicles, enables them to be used in a more diverse array of applications. This can lead to an overall increase in the adoption of solar energy across a broader range of sectors, which can contribute to reducing carbon emissions on a larger scale.

    Sustainability and Waste Management

    One of the main benefits of flexible solar panels is their use of organic photovoltaic (PV) materials, making them more environmentally friendly in comparison to traditional solar panels. Organic PV materials can be recycled more easily, thereby improving the waste management aspect of solar panel production.

    In addition, the durability and flexibility of the panels result in a longer lifespan, reducing the need for frequent replacement and, consequently, the production of waste in the long term.

    However, it is important to consider the lifespan of the materials used in flexible solar panels compared to traditional ones. The selection of appropriate materials that are both sustainable and provide a long-lasting performance is key to achieving a positive environmental impact.

    As developments and innovations continue in the realm of solar energy, it is crucial to take into account the benefits and potential drawbacks of implementing technologies such as flexible solar panels. By understanding their environmental impact, decision-makers can make informed choices that best promote a greener, more sustainable future.


    Flexible solar panels have gained popularity in the UK due to their lightweight nature and capacity to be installed on various surfaces, including on vehicles and in off-grid applications. While their efficiency is currently lower than traditional solar panels, ongoing research and development are paving the way for improvements in organic solar cell technology.

    One of the limitations of flexible solar panels is their shorter lifespan, which ranges from 5-10 years, compared to the 25-year warranties typically offered for traditional panels. However, manufacturers continue to invest in making flexible solar panels more durable to compete with standard models.

    As the solar industry continues to grow in the UK, flexible solar panels offer manufacturers and consumers exciting new opportunities for innovative uses and applications, such as integration into the built environment and portable power solutions. In summary, while flexible solar panels may not yet match the efficiency and durability of traditional panels, their unique features and ongoing advancements make them an increasingly attractive option for a range of solar applications in the UK.

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    Mark McShane
    Content Writer
    Mark McShane is a seasoned professional in the solar industry and the owner of Skills Training Group, a leading provider of solar training and education. With years of experience in the field, Mark has developed a deep understanding of the latest trends, technologies and best practices in the industry. His expertise and passion for solar energy have helped countless professionals develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the fast-growing field of solar energy. Whether you’re an aspiring solar professional or an experienced industry veteran, Mark is an excellent resource for anyone looking to enhance their skills and knowledge of the solar industry.
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