While solar panels can withstand a lot of weight and can be walked on, it is never recommended. Many variables could cause damage to your PV system’s modules, and the risk is never worth it.
While it is possible to walk on solar panels, it is not advised. I made solar panels of thin, brittle tempered glass, and the weight and pressure of a footstep could easily crack or pop the glass out of its frame.
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Can You Walk on Solar Panels?
It is true that a person may need to walk on their solar panel for a variety of reasons, including an attempt to make better use of limited space or a poorly planned setup with no walkable path.
Yet, solar panels represent a important portion of your investment in your off-grid setup, so you must ensure that they are well-maintained and cared for.
Here’s a video of a mechanical loading experiment that shows how walking affects standard glass foil and monocrystalline crystalline silicon solar panels.
The aim was to show that walking and other mechanical stress on panels can occur during transport, handling, installation, and operation.
Cracking may not always be visible, but it can be prevented, as even the smallest crack on solar panels can have a big effect on their performance in the long term.
Here is another video that demonstrates how walking or kneeling on silicon solar cells can cause them to break. Breaking solar cells is simple.
However, it may be impossible to observe this damage when they are packaged inside the module.
Over time, the impact of a fractured cell on the solar panel’s power production gets worse and worse.
Thermal expansions and contractions brought on by the daytime and nighttime temperature variations aid in the separation of the components close to the crack.
In this video, the current runs backward through the panel so the cells light up, similar to LED lights.
The movie was created using a specialized camera because solar cells emit infrared light, which is undetectable to the human eye.
Are there Solar Panels We Can Walk On?
Seeing how easily solar panels can crack, you should know that manufacturers work hard to make solar panels as strong and durable as possible.
With the development of solar technology, manufacturers have designed solar panels that can be put on walking surfaces in a variety of vehicles, including campers, RVs, vans, and yachts.
These are panels you can walk on, or, more accurately, you have to walk on because of the limited surface of these vehicles.
Because of the limited space on off-grid and mobile applications such as yachts, surfaces ideal for mounting solar panels must frequently be used for walking.
The deck surface is frequently curved to facilitate water runoff and aerodynamics.
Some characteristics of flexible semi-rigid walk-on solar panels include:
- Because they lack glass and aluminum, they are light and flexible
- In marine applications, they can last for over ten years
- They are just as effective as standard rigid solar panels
- They will not outlast rigid solar panels
- They don’t come in large Watt output sizes
- They cost more than rigid solar panels
What Are Solar Panels Made of?
Several layers of silicon atoms that have been coated with particles that enable them to produce and conduct energy make up solar panels.
The silicon wafers that make up each solar cell are fragile, crystalline structures that are vulnerable to breaking under impact or with too much distortion.
Solar panels can be put on walking surfaces in a variety of vehicles, including campers, RVs, vans, and yachts.
The cells are in a tough transparent plastic that can resist extreme marine settings for over ten years and are mounted on a flexible aluminum backing.
What Are the Important Characteristics of Solar Panels?
The two varieties of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels—monocrystalline and polycrystalline—have each been the subject of several papers.
Monocrystalline panels are made from silicon wafers with just one silicon crystal.
From silicon wafers with various crystalline structures, polycrystalline panels are made.
Advantages and drawbacks apply to every type of panel.
Monocrystalline solar cells generate more power per square inch in direct sunshine.
They may be susceptible to shade, and on days with more clouds, their output may suffer more quickly.
Although less sensitive to shade, polycrystalline solar panels produce less energy per square inch in direct sunlight.
It is crucial to remember that monocrystalline panels still outperform newer, higher-quality polycrystalline panels by less than 5% in full sunlight.
Premium monocrystalline cells, which offer the best all-around performance of any solar cell on the market, are used in marine solar panels.
Panel Solar Cell Quality
Maximum power generation per surface area is essential for vans because they have a certain quantity of solar space accessible.
The output of the solar panel is significantly influenced by the caliber of the solar cells used in the panels.
Based on how well they perform after being exposed to a conventional light source, solar cells are rated (1-10).
Grades create classes.
Class A (and A+) solar cells receive ratings between 8 and 10, Class B solar cells receive ratings between 4 and 7, and so on.
There are far more Class B solar cells than Class A, according to a bell-shaped distribution of solar cell quality.
When space is not a constraint, Class B and C panels are widely employed on land-based solar farms.
The Importance of Solar Cell Quality: Not All 100 Watt Solar Panels Are Created Equal
At different sun angles, high-quality, high-performance solar cells will generate up to 30% more power than inferior solar cells.
The amount of solar electricity you need depends in large part on how many watt hours or amp hours of power you can generate.
Let’s say your camping spot receives 5 hours or more of direct sunlight on a daily average.
Both the seasonal solar angle and the sun angle from morning to evening are used to get the average.
A 100-watt solar panel with solar cells of average efficiency may produce 500 watt-hours of power each day or 100 watts multiplied by five hours.
That is equivalent to about 38 amp-hours per day at 13 volts.
In a day, a 100-watt panel with high-efficiency solar cells will provide up to 30% more energy, or 100 watts multiplied by 6.5 effective hours, or 650 watt-hours.
That is equivalent to around 50 amp hours each day at 13 volts. In a van, 38 watt-hours per day compared to 50 amp hours is important.
When we add extra panels, let’s say 400 watts, we receive 152 amp hours as opposed to 200 amp hours, a 48 amp hour difference.
This straightforward approach ignores the impact of clouds and shading, both of which will exacerbate the discrepancy.
Obviously, the amount of power produced over time will increase with the quality of the solar cells.
The main market for solar panels is the business sector, where a huge number of panels are installed in fields or on roofs.
The common shape of these panels is rectangular, and they are twice as long as they are wide.
For marine applications, this form is typically undesirable. Particularly for pole mounting, a more square shape is frequently desired.
Equipment can be vulnerable to the sea environment, especially in salt water.
In order to safeguard the electronic components and to resist the rigors of the marine environment, solar panels should be well sealed and waterproof, with the electrical box on the rear of the panel enclosed in an inert, non-corrosive waterproof material (like silicone).
Bypass diodes are integrated into high-quality marine-grade solar panels to lessen the effects of shadowing, which is frequent when sailing and camping.
It is necessary to conduct research and/or consult with PV panel experts in order to select the best PV panel for your needs.
Solar panels have many important characteristics that determine their energy output.
Although manufacturers make solar panels as sturdy and durable as possible, walking on standard solar panel installations is not advised.
Solar panels can easily crack, and even a small crack can significantly affect their performance.
However, there are other types of solar panels that are meant for vehicles, including campers, RVs, vans, and yachts.
These panels are much sturdier and can be walked on, but they are not as nearly efficient as standard solar panels mounted on roofs because they don’t come in large Watt sizes.
Finally, they are more expensive compared to standard, rigid solar panels.