Since 2007, a thin film, portable, and flexible gadget charger sold under the trademark “SolarRoll” has been on the market. Made by the Brunton company, the SolarRoll™ is a roll-up, easily-transported solar panel that can be unrolled and used to charge things like cell phones, digital cameras, etc. The SolarRoll™ is sold in various sizes with model numbers based on output.
Another type of roll-up solar panel is making waves in rooftop solar, especially for commercial use, but specifically made for flat- and metal-topped roofs. A couple of companies are making these solar panel alternatives.
SolarRolls™ for Gadgets, Communications
Brunton offers three models: the 4.5, the 9 and the 14. The number designates the output of the panel in watts (4.5w, 9w, and 14w). The 4.5 can provide enough power to charge a cell phone while the 14 can charge a laptop or even charge the battery in your car (slowly).
Although the technology is not brand new, it is patented and has few competitors. This has put Brunton in a position to charge healthy prices for their panels. The 4.5 is $295 dollars while the 14 is $655. Still, for the prepper or GOOD survivalist, nothing beats the SolarRoll™ for portable power capability and small size/weight.
The 14 can run a satellite phone, weighs 17 ounces, and measures 12 inches in width. Rolled up, it’s about the diameter of a 120-count vitamin bottle (2.5-inches). They’re also made in the USA. A comparable flat panel would weigh about 9 pounds and be 38x13x.05 inches. The SolarRoll™ is also waterproof.
Solar Rolls for the Rooftop
Two companies, SoloPower and Global Power, are marketing roll-up solar panels for the rooftop. Targeting commercial use, these panels affix to flat or metal roofed buildings without need of structural change, penetration, resurfacing, or changing the wind profile of the building. They are based on the same flexible solar cell technology used in SolarRolls™.
Modules come in rolls that extend to various lengths: usually 8-18 feet. An 18-foot by 1 foot panel is capable of producing about 300W of power. They are sized to fit inside the large, flat section of most metal roofing.
The panels are self-adhesive and made of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (CIGS) on flexible foil. They are much lighter than glass-encased panels, can be wired in series or parallel, and can be mounted either directly onto the rooftop or onto racks that can be positioned for best light capture.
For the prepared family, a metal roof is a lifetime investment. Adding solar to that rooftop can be another long-term payoff. These can also be added to other metal-roofed buildings such as barns, silos, etc.
Technology is progressing quickly and the prepared family should keep up-to-date with it in order to utilize whatever is available. Roll-up solar panels such as SolarRolls™ are just one of many new technologies that can power the off-grid or no-grid situation.