Rooftop solar question


So we just bought a van, our first since a 1985 Vanagon Westy that we sold in 1994. Since then, have owned mostly pickups and one LC80. Anyway, our new van is a high roof Transit, 9’ tall even if we don’t end up lifting it and/or mounting bigger tires. And in the first 500 miles, including getting off pavement a bit to find campsites, I’ve already brushed a lot of low-hanging branches. Light stuff, as I’m obviously looking out for things that would cause real damage, but I’m wondering about the wisdom of adding a rack and rigid solar panels. Even if the panels and rack don’t get damaged, I’d hate to be trimming trees all the time in the forest. What are downsides, aside from near-permanence, of sticking a flexible panel down with VHB? And will that be pretty robust? I do have a 130W folding panel now, but would like to get 250-400W attached and hard-wired through a roof gland for turnkey use.



Expedition Leader
Rigid solar panels are mechanically pretty robust. They deal with wild temperatures, storm debris and hail in normal outdoor use. I think the decision would be mainly cost and convenience. Flexible panels are less cost effective although easier to fit in unusual places. But the huge flat top of a van screams for panels and is something most of us would give anything to have. Keep the whole thing low profile and perhaps build the rack such that the panels are slightly below the rail and protected?


Yeah, if you want zero maintenance (short of cleaning....) and good life, stick with rigid.


Forget the flexible junk. We are 11'6" with 630 Watts of rigid panels. They are very robust, we have pushed through many branches with no issues.

Scotty D

Active member
Every person I know that used flexible panels has had them fail in pretty short order
Now you have a bunch of crappy adhesive on your roof for the next ten years


I have 400W of rigid panels on a medium roof Transit. They are mounted with feet from AM Solar, held on with VHB tape. Now at 5-1/2 years of trouble-free power.