Solar Panels cost 15,000 credits. They consume 3 tons of weapon space and grant an additional unit of fuel every 30 frames. A ship may be outfitted with up to 4 Solar Panels.
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These items are available from virtually any outfitter in known space. You can install up to four panels in order to charge more quickly.
Many new players try to venture out into unknown space without a panel (especially on the first Vell-os mission); they run out of energy, land on an uninhabited planet (thus saving the game), and are stranded unless they either have a backup pilot file or use a plug-in. Note that is is also possible to escape by requesting assistance from passing vessels to buy fuel from them, but only so much fuel can be gained this way and this depends on friendly vessels passing through the system.