Solar panels are an innovative and eco-friendly technology that most of us will be used to seeing placed on rooftops for power generation. The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy even projects that more than one in seven U.S. homes will have rooftop solar systems by 2030.
But could smaller portable versions also prove to be useful, despite their comparative limitations in power output? Read more on the advantages and applications of mini solar panels below.
photo credit: Adafruit Industries / Flickr
What are mini solar panels?
As you may have guessed from the name, mini solar panels are small panels that are designed to conduct solar power. Much like regular solar panels, these mini versions harvest renewable energy from the sun and use it to power electrical devices.
Thanks to their size, mini solar panels are portable and suitable for applications where larger panels would be impractical. They can also reduce traditional energy demands and bring costs down over time.
How do mini solar panels work?
Mini solar panels work in much the same way as regular solar panels but on a smaller scale. Photovoltaic cells, usually made of silicon or other semiconductor materials, receive and absorb energy when they’re exposed to sunlight.
They then transfer this energy to a semiconductor which creates an electric field to deliver voltage and current. Though the voltage is almost constant, the current fluctuates based on the level of sunlight the panels receive at a given time.
The electrical power generated as a result is measured in watts. Mini solar panels typically generate between 0.06 and 4 watts, though their size and output can vary.
What are the advantages of mini solar panels?
All solar panels provide renewable energy and therefore offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional energy sources. They can also reduce the cost of energy over time, despite their high initial purchase price. But beyond these general advantages, the main benefits of mini solar panels are simply their size and flexibility.
Whereas space or weight limitations might restrict the use of larger panels, mini panels are ideal for powering certain appliances on the go. Most mini panel kits are easy to carry with you or at least fit in a regular car for transportation.
Mini solar panels also don’t require the same expensive installation processes as regular panels due to their different applications.
Where are mini solar panels used?
Often used in combination with motor controllers for extra output control, mini solar panels make versatile power sources for smaller devices with low energy demands. Common examples include:
- Watches and other wearable devices
- Pocket calculators
These panels can also be used alongside batteries in smartphones and laptops in order to absorb power, recharge the battery and ensure a continuous power supply.
Mini panels don’t yet offer enough power for larger electrical devices such as desktop computers. Overcast weather is another potential limitation if more power is needed.
Do you expect to see mini solar panel technology becoming more commonplace in the devices we now use every day?