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Origami Provides a New Twist on Foldable Solar Panels

Origami Provides a New Twist on Foldable Solar Panels

Using solar energy as a power source for RV appliances and devices isn’t new. And using foldable solar panels to power devices or portable power stations is nothing new either. But foldable panels on an RV?

Foldable solar panels are designed to provide solar charging for small devices or a solar generator. They’re great for campers and people who participate in outdoor activities away from fixed power sources.

Some flexible, portable solar panels are lightweight, quite compact, and easily portable. There are many on the market… more all the time.

In fact, we’ve previously published an entire post on some of the best and most popular portable solar panels for RVs, most of which fold at least in half to make them more compact.

But today, we’re talking about a whole new concept: using the ancient Japanese art of origami to make foldable solar panels far more compact and easy to carry…even for backpackers and RVers with small rigs.

What Is Origami?

Origami is the centuries-old art of folding paper into intricate decorative shapes and figures. The word “origami” comes from two Japanese words…”oru” which means to fold, and “kami” which means paper.

To this day, many people continue to practice the art of origami, beginning with simple projects utilizing the basics of folding paper into geometric shapes. Once the art of manipulating paper using origami is mastered, true enthusiasts move on to more complex projects.

Such is the case with the creators of the products we’re featuring here today, who’ve used the art of origami to create some unique foldable solar panels.

What Is an Origami Foldable Solar Panel?

An origami foldable solar panel is an interesting application for the ancient Japanese art of folding. It combines origami with a softer, more pliable solar panel that gets folded into small geometric shapes, making it more compact and easily portable.

This might be hard to picture, so let’s look at a couple of innovative products that use origami to fold solar panels. Note that both products we’re featuring here are only available on Kickstarter as we write this post, but they do seem promising.

Sego Origami Travel Solar Panel

From Sego Innovations comes a travel solar panel that’s folded using the concept of origami.

A person folding a Sego solar panel

Sego solar panels fold in a uniquely compact manner using the concept of the ancient art of origami. (Photo source: Sego Innovations)

This is a small, highly portable solar panel, making it great for backpacking, biking, or camping trips to keep your electronic devices charged up. The Sego solar panel comes in a travel-friendly, compact design that can fit almost anywhere.

Sego says their products have excellent water resistance and are built to withstand repeated folding, all kinds of weather, and extended UV exposure. They use SunPower solar cells, which have good efficiency ratings. The panels deploy to create a surface area 8 times its folded size.

Sego offers four sizes of solar panels: 20W, 50W, 100W, and 400W.

Depending on how much wattage you need for your particular setup, there’s a Sego panel (or a combination of more than one) that should be able to accommodate modest power requirements.

Bearing in mind that a solar panel produces less power on a cloudy day, you’d want to opt for a panel that can produce more power than you need on a day-to-day basis.

Sego panels have a chaining port that allows you to connect more than one solar panel for additional wattage. For example, if you find that your 100W solar panel works well but doesn’t quite cover your needs, you could connect two 100-watt solar panels for a total of 200 watts in a tiny package.

Here’s how the Sego panels fold compactly when compared with traditional folding solar panels:

Illustration showing Sego solar panels size

This illustration shows the comparison between the folded size of a Sego solar panel and the folded size of a typical bi-fold or tri-fold solar panel. (Photo source: Sego Innovations)

Sego panels have a solar panel charge controller with a built-in kickstand that folds away compactly into the connector box. You can also opt for an adjustable tripod that’ll enable you to set up the panel on uneven ground or even on rocks and other uneven surfaces.

You can learn more about Sego origami foldable solar panels on the Sego Innovations website or visit the Sego Kickstarter page. This video will give you a visual peek at Sego Solar Charger products:


Foldable solar panels from Levante provide surprisingly high outputs in a compact package.

In 2021, Sara Plaga and Kim-Joar Myklebust founded Levante. They wanted to solve a problem they were having obtaining sufficient solar power in a portable package during their sailing and camping adventures.

Levante states that their panels, made in Italy, offer the performance of a rigid panel in a portable form, billing their panels as “the world’s most powerful origami solar panel.”

Levante solar panels deploy to 6 or 9 times their original size depending on the array purchased (330W = 6X, 500W = 9X). However, the panels aren’t as compact as Sego panels.

Levante origami panels weren’t designed for backpacking or carrying on a bike. They’re intended more for car/van camping, RVing, sailing, or even homesteading off-the-grid.

Split screen with Levante solar panels shown closed (smallest) and deployed/open (at full size)

Here you see Levante solar panels shown closed (at its smallest size) and deployed/open. Individual panels zip together to create a portable solar array. (Photos source: Levante)

Levante panels offer a unique way to connect the origami solar array: zippers. The zippered panels also offer an excellent solution should one or more of the monocrystalline panels become damaged. The required number of new individual panel(s) can be purchased to replace only the damaged panel(s).

Levante’s 330W panel comes in six independent modules that connect to create one 330W origami panel weighing just 20 pounds. Their 500W panel array comprises nine independent modules connected to create one origami panel weighing 29 pounds.

You can learn more about Levante’s origami foldable solar panels at the Levante website, where you can also visit the Levante Kickstarter page for an update on the market status of the products.

Here’s a visual presentation in video format from Levante:

What Do You Think of Origami Foldable Solar Panels?

We think solar panels made portable with origami-style foldability are a fantastic innovation. If they perform as well as Sego and Levante suggest, we think they’ll be very successful.

Want to read about another interesting development in solar power? Check out “Bifacial Solar Panels For RVs: Being Two-Faced Isn’t All Bad!

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