Until recently the only solar sails were those designed for catching the solar wind aboard spacecraft, but not anymore, thanks to UK Sailmakers France and SolarCloth System’s Power Sails. The key here is a set of lightweight, non-load-bearing ultra-thin solar panels—typically 65 microns thick—which are laminated, glued, stitched or even zipped to a boat’s mainsail. Proof of concept was aboard an Open 50 in the 3,500-mile Route de Rhum transatlantic race in November 2014. After that came its use aboard the Arcona 380Z (Z for Zero emissions) a production boat with a UK Sweden tape-drive mainsail including 75ft² of photovoltaic film on each side. On this side of the pond, Power Sails have established a bridgehead as part of the energy package on the new J/88 Oceanvolt, which also includes a hydro-generator to help power its electric saildrive. Because the materials work well on a variety of fabrics, expect to see it on sailpacks, dodgers, biminis and awnings as well. On the aforementioned Open 50, for example, the arrays could be unzipped and attached to the sail cover in port.
Price upon request. SolarClothSystem/UK Sailmakers, solarclothsystem.com