Solar Cloth: Solar panels of interest from the Vendée Globe to the classic boat
Solar Cloth System's flexible solar panels continue their technological development. Gains in performance, weight and integration, which are seducing from Jean Le Cam for the Vendée Globe to the Spirit Yachts shipyard in beautiful yachting, and well beyond sailing.
Redundancy and lightness of the solar panels for the Vendée Globe
The French company Solar Cloth System equipped Jean Le Cam's IMOCA yacht for the 2020 Vendée Globe. After accompanying Conrad Colman during the 2016 edition of this single-handed round-the-world race, the company is confirming its interest in ocean racing, working with the skipper on light and robust solutions. "Jean Le Cam contacted us during the confinement to work with him on the carbon cap of his IMOCA. We studied several solutions together. Taking into account the passage of the boom and the skylights, it wasn't possible to line the whole cap. So we came up with a solution with 4 autonomous zones which was installed at the beginning of July 2020" explains Alain Janet, founder of the Solar Cloth System.
Jean Le Cam's yacht, has 4 autonomous systems of 163W each with its own regulator. The panels glued on the cap are entirely flush, the gluing taking into account the deformation of the cap. "The 4 regulators require more wiring, but the redundancy gives security. The weight/power ratio of our panels allows it to save weight at the top. We are around 340W/kg, while the current semi-rigid offerings are around 85 W/kg and the rigid ones around 15 W/kg. We also have a good control of the diodes to isolate the shaded areas and lose the least amount of output," says Alain Janet.
A solar sail for classic yachting
Solar Cloth System's activity goes beyond ocean racing and also appeals to one-off yacht builders. Without being the company's main development lever, the integration of solar panels in boat sails was one of its first communication vectors. The Spirit 44th from the British shipyard Spirit Yachts is expected to continue this role. For this 100% electric yacht, the company delivered the flexible panels for the mainsail. "We delivered the photovoltaic elements to the OneSails sailmaker and they took care of the entire installation. This is something that could be done for any sailmaker. The important thing is the quality of the installation and the necessary rigour" underlines the founder of Solar Cloth System.
French industrialization and mastery of technologies
Alain Janet's favourite sector, coming from the world of sailmaking, yachting is no longer the main market for Solar Cloth System. Regular orders from the agricultural, road transport and camping markets are pushing the company to expand. "We are entering a phase of industrialization. We had to go from a clean room with a capacity of 10m²/day to 100m²/day. A dozen new employees are to be hired. We are also taking part in national discussions on the creation of a CIGS photovoltaic cell production chain in France. The arrival on the market of Perovskite cells, a new technology developed in tandem with existing photovoltaic technologies, will make it possible in the near future to significantly improve yields while limiting costs and the carbon footprint," enthuses Alain Janet. Supported by these other industrial sectors, yachting is benefiting from these advances.