This isn’t a piece of communications gear per se, but with fossil fuel prices soaring it’s a good time for sailors to think of energy alternatives. These flexible PowerFilm Solar products offer some interesting options. All it takes is a modest-sized Rollable Charger (available in four sizes) to keep the batteries of a moored vessel topped off and ready to go. Depending on the size of the battery bank and the type of batteries, a charge controller may also be necessary. Long-term long-distance cruisers can use several longer strips of these interconnectible rollup solar panels to create awnings that double as a solar array. The strips can be quickly stowed away before heading out to sea.
These flexible thin-film amorphous silicon solar arrays are coated onto a plastic substrate and are cost effectively mass produced. Though not as efficient on a per-square-foot basis as single-cut crystal technology, the price per watt and stowage capability of PowerFilm’s products makes up for the lower output per square foot. Power ratings are given in watts at 15.4 volts DC, but like all panels, voltage and therefore wattage drops as soon as the array is connected to an even slightly discharged battery. Still, in this tight energy market every little bit counts.