New approaches for small RV’s.
THIS DECADE HAS SEEN MANY ADVANCES IN SOLAR PANEL RESEARCH, WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF A WIDE ARRAY OF NEW MATERIALS, WHICH IS CHANGING RV LIFE.
Less important to the big rigs, that have large, flat roofs to support a large numbers of panels, the smaller Class B RV’s and Cargo Van Conversions tend to have preciously little room for sufficient solar power generating equipment. And those with curved roofs (p.e. converted vans or Airstreams) are even less fortunate. Another concern for smaller vehicles is overall weight, as their restricted payloads limit installation of an extensive photovoltaic system.
Most often the rigid residential solar modules have been adapted for use by RV’s, but flexible panels started to make inroads a few years ago. These low-efficiency panels offered no solution for the Class B traveler, as they came in clumsy sizes and needed more, lacking, roof space.
Lately, a new generation of semi flexible panels has entered the market, with fairly high efficiency, a good performance in indirect light & high heat and less prone to wind damage. In most cases they have a relatively higher cost, while their longevity is still in question as this is a new technology that hasn’t been well tested.
These new semi flexible panels can be installed directly on the roof without the need for any brackets or mounting devices which allows them to blend in more and make them more aesthetically pleasing. As critical is their weight, which is substantially less than conventional panels, yet come in a larger number of sizes.
More importantly for the RV enthousiast, being off-grid in a Recreational Vehicle, little research of what actually works under real life circumstances has been performed, leaving early adapters in limbo. Efforts are made by individual members of the RV community to change that. One example is the Comparative Analysis for Flexible Solar Panels by the Technomadia team (2014-2015).
Until such time we have to struggle to assemble a well-proven photovoltaic system that will last for decades to come.
NEXT TIME: Some facts and comparisons.