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Small Solar Panels for Custom Projects: Options + Where to Source Them

Solar panels are a crucial component of a complete solar power system.

They typically comprise dozens of interconnected solar cells, and are available in a range of power ratings, voltages and amperages to suit particular electrical needs.

In addition to the regular, or standard panels that are widely adopted in both residential and C&I projects, there are small solar panels that are specially designed for niche and DIY applications.

Small Solar Panel

What Are Small Solar Panels?

The term ‘small solar panels’ refers to panel products that differ from the standard, comparatively larger panels in terms of dimension and electrical specs.

Overview: Standard Solar Panels

Currently, the power rating of standard solar panels available in the market ranges from 250W to 500W on average, with the lower ratings usually used in residential systems and higher ratings in C&I projects.

While voltage and amperage values can differ between solar panel models and manufacturers, they generally fall within specific ranges to ensure compatible connections with most solar batteries or inverters. Here is a general guideline for your reference:

  • Open-Circuit Voltage (Voc): 30V to 45V
  • Maximum Power Voltage (Vmp): 25V to 35V
  • Short-Circuit Current (Isc): 8A to 11A
  • Maximum Power Current (Imp): 7A to 10A

Differences in the electrical specs of panels arise from variations in materials or cell unit composition, subsequently influencing panel dimensions and weights.

Typically, residential panels measure around 65 inches by 39 inches, while commercial products are around 78 inches by 39 inches.

Further taking into types of encapsulation and frame materials, standard panels can range from 40 to 50 pounds.

What About Small Solar Panels?

Small solar panels are compact panel devices. They produce less electricity than traditional, standard solar panels.

They come in various power outputs, with some as low as a couple of watts and others up to 100 watts, or slightly more.

Given the lack of large-scale standardized applications for small panels, the voltages and amperages can also vary. In general, the Voc of these panels ranges from 18V to 24V, while the Vmp falls between 15V and 20V. However, some specialized products may have voltages as low as a few volts. As for amperages, the Isc typically spans from 1A to 6A, and the Imp from 0.5A to 5A.

In addition to being more lightweight, small solar panels feature compact designs with varying aspect ratios or are custom-made into irregular shapes, such as the round, to cater to specific project requirements.

For niche applications, solar panels are designed with much smaller electrical specs and dimensions. They can also be called mini solar panels. 

Finally, in contrast to standard panels, which can be made with a diverse range of materials and assembly techniques, small panels generally employ crystalline and CIGS materials.

The Applications of Small or Mini Solar Panels

Small or mini solar panels are portable, flexible and able to generate clean power in various settings. Some common applications where they can effectively provide power for loads include:

Portable Chargers

Small panels can be rollable or foldable according to their materials and designs. They output a few dozen watts which is sufficient to charge smartphones and other small electronic devices while on the go. They can also be integrated into power banks to store solar for later use.

Consumer Electronics 

Toys, calculators and other small electronic devices can run entirely on solar power or use it to supplement their existing energy sources.

Wearable Technology

The use of mini solar panels to supply continuous power for wristwatches has a long history. Latest technology integrates flexible mini panels into fabrics to charge wearable gadgets.

Solar Lights

Solar-powered lights, including garden lights, pathway lights and decorative lights, among others, are the most prevalent applications of small panels. These lights provide flexible and convenient outdoor lighting solutions for homes, while eliminating the need for wiring and promoting a more sustainable lifestyle.

C&I Applications

Small solar panels, when paired with energy storage modules, can supply reliable power for billboards, street signs, flashing warning lights and traffic lights, allowing for continuous operation and reduced dependence on traditional grids.

Remote Sensors, Monitors or IoT Devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers varying benefits for modern life and production. Therein, small or mini panels supply independent power for the operation of these devices. They can be sensors that monitor weather, pollution and wildlife, or soil moisture sensors, irrigation controllers and other agricultural monitoring tools in remote fields.

Educational or DIY Projects

By creating small solar-powered devices, these panels provide students and enthusiasts with hands-on experience in solar energy, encouraging innovation and learning.

Can I Customize Small Solar Panels for My Project?

The market offers a variety of ready-made products. You can select a panel that matches your project's electrical specs and the space where it will be installed.

For specialized applications, namely those with particular, uncommon electrical and size requirements, certain suppliers provide small solar panel customization services to meet these needs. The general process includes:

  • Demand Collection: Share the details of your project with the supplier to ensure a customized solution perfectly aligns with your demands.
  • Design & Engineering: Upon receiving the details, the supplier will design a panel that is tailored to your unique size and power output needs. Generally, a datasheet and drawing of the product will be prepared for communication at the latter part of this stage.
  • Prototyping: If confirmed, the supplier will create a small panel prototype for testing.
  • Manufacturing: After the product has successfully passed the tests required and been confirmed by your side, mass production of your custom panel will begin. When final tests are completed, they will be shipped to your door.
Small Solar Panel Customization

The Small Solar Panel Market

The small solar panel market is undergoing rapid growth and innovation, with a recent study forecasting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.58% from 2024 to 2033.

The market is driven by several key factors and trends.

  • The Widespread of Distributed Electronics, and IoT Devices: The growth of distributed electronics, including consumer products, C&I products, as well as IoT devices, has fueled the demand for small panels as standalone power sources, thereby speeding up the deployment of these products.
  • Advancements in Panel Efficiency and Battery Performance: On the flip side, the improvements in small panel efficiency, and increased performance in batteries regarding capacity, cycles and lifespan, enhance the feasibility and reliability of using distributed solar as power sources.
  • Reduced Equipment Prices and Broader Product Range: The decline in panel prices and the proliferation of product options have made small solar panels an excellent choice for powering a wide variety of devices.

By region, small solar panels are widely utilized in North America and some European countries, where small electronic products are prevalent. China and many emerging economies are also experiencing a rapid uptake in adoption among people.

Where to Source Small Solar Panels?

Sourcing small solar panels can be done through various channels, depending on your needs and the scale of your project.

If you use small panels for your DIY or hobby project, you can source them on online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

If you are a project developer or electronic product manufacturer looking to source small or mini panels in bulk, or if you require small solar panel customization services, don’t hesitate to contact us. 

We are committed to supporting your success and are here to assist with your specific needs.

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