Narrow Solar Panels (Types And Applications)

Long narrow solar panels are often the only option to fully utilize the available roof surface on a yacht, van, RV, or camper. Each solar cell is six-inches square (156mm x 156mm) and can thus be configured into long-narrow arrays to fit in the spaces where conventional 60 or 72-cell solar panels will not work.

Each solar cell is capable of generating 0.5V of “Open Circuit Voltage” (Voc) at 25 degrees Celsius and a current of 5 A (Ampere) for a total of 2.5 W per cell. Small square panels of four solar cells will generate 10W and be manufactured in extended two-by configurations of 20W up to 100W.

The size configurations of long and narrow panels are determined by a single solar cell’s 6″x6″ size. These long and narrow solar panel configurations are primarily available as semi-flexible panels. They are designed for the roofs and cabin tops of sailboats, vans, RVs, and campers, most likely curved.

  • 2 cells x 2 cells = 10W (12 inches x 12 inches / 1ft x 1ft)
  • 2 cells x 4 cells = 20W (1ft x 2ft)
  • 2 cells x 6 cells = 30W (1ft x 3ft)
  • 2 cells x 8 cells = 40W (1ft x 4ft)
  • 2 cells x 10 cells = 50W (1ft x 5ft)
  • 2 cells x 20 cells = 100W (1ft x 10ft)

Let’s look at other solar panel solutions to help you optimally utilize the available cabin roof space on mobile off-grid applications.

Narrow Solar Power For Mobile Applications With Limited Roof Space

Rigid framed solar panels are better than flexible or thin-film solar panels for stationary installations like roof-mounted arrays, ground-mounted arrays, or pole mounts. The rigidity provided by the aluminum frame and raised mounting provides better structural support and cooling.

The ability for the solar panels to be well ventilated to assist in heat dispersion dramatically improves the energy efficiency of the solar panel. A sturdy mounting will prevent the elements from damaging the solar panels.

In mobile applications such as boats, yachts, RVs, vans, and campers, the available space to mount rigid solar panels is limited and often not practical. A stern davit on a boat or a roof rack on a vehicle is often used for solar arrays.

To overcome the constraints associated with mobile solar applications with space constraints, the solar panel manufacturers have developed some specialized panels:

  1. Semi-flexible solar panels
  2. Walk-On solar panels
  3. Thin-Film solar panels
  4. Custom Shaped solar panels

These types of solar panels are thinner than conventional rigid solar panels and thus flexible. They can be mounted on curved surfaces and placed in configurations to fully utilize the available space on the vessel or vehicle.

The solar cells are wired in series to one another and can be configured into long thin solar panels or wider and longer solar panels. The solar panel configuration can be wired together in series or in parallel to obtain the ideal voltage and current required.

Best Selling Narrow Solar Panels

See also: Types of Solar Panels: A Comprehensive Guide for Buyers

What Are The Types Of Solar Panels?

There are four types of solar panels available in the market at present:

  1. Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) panels
  2. Monocrystalline solar panels
  3. Polycrystalline solar panels
  4. Thin-film solar panels (GIGS, CdTe, a-Si)

PERC or passivated emitter and rear cell panels are an improvement on the monocrystalline solar panel. The panel is designed to create internal reflection in the layer of tempered glass on top of the cell.

The internally reflected solar radiation increases the amount absorbed by the silicon monocrystalline solar cell. The cell is treated to inhibit the recombination of electrons which will impede the flow of electrons through the system.

The surface passivation treatment of the tempered glass or Plexiglas® layer reflects longer wavelength light, thus reducing the heat buildup in the solar cell and panel assemble and reducing the resistivity of the panel.

Panel (Module) typeEfficiencyAverage Cost per Watt
Monocrystalline20% plus$1 – $1.50
Polycrystalline15-17%$0.70 – $1
Thin film solar  
Copper indium gallium selenide13-15%$0.60 – $0.70
Cadmium telluride9-11%$0.50 – $0.60
Amorphous silicon6-8%$0.43 – $0.50
Solar Panel Module Type – Efficiency – Average Cost per Watt

PERC panels are much thinner and lightweight in design, and although more efficient, they are not as durable and impact-resistant as monocrystalline solar panels.

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most commonly found and efficient solar panels in the market today. Although they are the most expensive per Watt, their increased efficiency and durability compensate for their higher cost.

Monocrystalline solar cells are made of a single homogenous pure silicon crystal cut into thin wafers. They are easily identified by their uniform black color.

Polycrystalline solar cells are numerous silicon crystals fused into one ingot and then sliced into thin wafers. Making polycrystalline silicon is cheaper than monocrystalline silicon, but the purity and random crystalline structure make the cells less efficient than monocrystalline silicon solar cells.

Polycrystalline silicon solar cells have a lower tolerance for heat, making them less ideal for deployment in high-temperature climates.

Thin-film solar panels are used in applications where the weight of the panel is of critical importance. They can be made into very thin, flexible solar panels. They are made from:

  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe)
  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si)
  • Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)

Portable Solar Panels And Power Systems

Solar companies like Bluetti have seen the plight of the weekend campers and cruising community and have developed fully portable power systems that consist of a power bank and foldable solar panels.

The power bank comprises an inverter charger and lithium-iron-phosphate batteries with power outlets for 120V AC and charger ports for USB charger devices. The rugged solar panels are connected in series into a foldable array of four panels.

Bluett offers systems ranging from small 700W/537Wh systems to large 3000W/5100Wh systems. The foldable solar arrays are lightweight and easy to deploy and connect to the power bank.

The portable kit contains all the cables and connectors to enable quick and easy deployment to charge the batteries while powering your camping equipment and electrical devices.


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Elliot has 20+ years of experience in renewable technology, from conservation to efficient living. His passion is to help others achieve independent off-grid living.

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