Portable Solar Panels

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A portable solar panel is one that can be carried about rather than having a fixed location. Portable solar panels are used to provide electricity for use away from a power grid. Portable solar panels can recharge batteries (such as in a cell phone or laptop computer, as well as a storage battery). They provide power to store for use in lighting and other applications when camping or hiking, in recreational vehicles when away from a plug-in, and in the military.

Portable solar panels are usually built to generate 100 watts of power or less, and commonly generate around 5-30 watts. Voltage of portable solar panels is usually twelve volts; this is the voltage needed to run most portable appliances or to recharge storage batteries on the scale of a car battery.

Prices and sizes vary widely, except of course that any portable solar panel must be small enough to carry. A low-wattage portable solar panel usually costs around $60-$70, but prices can be much higher for more powerful panels. A typical design allows the panel to be folded for easy carrying using a handle or in a backpack, with the exposed surface designed to protect the panel’s working surface from damage. Backpack designs also avoid sharp edges so as to prevent damaging other items in the pack.

Military Uses Of Portable Solar Panels

Military forces make use of electric power for communications, computing, lighting, and powering of many military devices. Electric power has become a standard supply issue for troops alongside food, ammunition, fuel for vehicles, replacement parts, and medical supplies. Portable solar panels in military forces such as the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps are designed to provide all a unit’s electrical power needs for 15 days. Portable solar panel systems have been used successfully by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Military solar panels are higher wattage than those normally employed in civilian use, generating 200 watts or more, but are still made on a 12 volt scale due to normal battery capacity and appliance demands. In one experimental design, solar panels are part of a portable rapid base setup that can be transported by a single transport plane and includes water recycling and rapid-deployment shelters as well as electric power.

Portable Solar Panels For Outdoor Use

The most common use of portable solar panels outside the military is in camping, hiking, and recreational vehicles. A camping or hiking version is designed to fit inside or strapped to a backpack and to charge batteries that power devices used when camping. The panel design puts a premium on efficiency, small size, and low
weight. Typically, the panels are not exposed to the sun while hiking, so that they are used in daylight hours after setting up camp.

Portable solar panels are also used to power appliances or recharge batteries in a recreational vehicle. This replaces a gas-powered generator and produces energy more quietly and efficiently, with zero fuel cost. However, it requires a storage battery (either a separate battery or the vehicle’s battery) because it can generate power only during the day.

Where To Buy Portable Solar Panels

Portable solar panels may be purchased on Amazon, and are sometimes available at eBay. They can also be found at REI and other stores specializing in outdoor equipment. It’s a good idea to research your prospective purchase first especially looking for reviews. Quality varies widely and not all portable solar panels on the market would meet your needs (depending of course on your intended use of the panels).

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