Solar panels that can be unfurled like carpet could be a game changer where portable power solutions are needed, such as in the wake of a natural disaster, for example. Cardiff Council in the UK is about to test out this technology on a small island off the coast of Wales, as a new way of possibly shoring up its energy requirements for the future.

Flexible solar panels can pack more of a punch than stiff, regular old panels because they allow for a higher energy capacity from a smaller package. We have seen some consumer products aimed at taking advantage of this, like flexible solar cells that roll up into a candy-bar-shaped backup battery for mobile devices, but UK firm Renovagen has been working to adapt the technology for industrial-scale applications.

Its Rapid Roll Solar PV system consists of flexible solar panels that can be unrolled from a small trailer unit within two minutes to provide 11 kW of power. A larger version can be unrolled from a shipping container in less than an hour for 300 kW of power.

Cardiff Council has now enlisted the company's services to conduct trials on Flat Holm Island, a small limestone island that, while home to no permanent residents, does host tourists in search of wildlife, a pub and a lighthouse. Power for the island's minimal infrastructure has previously come courtesy of conventional solar panels and a diesel generator, but it is now looking for cleaner, and more flexible solutions as it prepares for a rise in visitor numbers.

"We are delighted to have completed our deployment of Rapid Roll solar power systems to Flat Holm Island and Lamby Way," said Managing Director of Renovagen, John Hingley. "We have been able to demonstrate the outstanding mobility and robustness of the Rapid Roll system on Flat Holm. This was achieved via delivery of the unit to a beach by landing craft, through repositioning hundreds of meters away and full deployment of the solar field – all in only one hour."

While the trials on Flat Holm Island play out, Cardiff Council will also use the Rapid Roll system to charge two Nissan e-NV200 electric vehicles at a recycling depot on the mainland.

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