Last February, tests were carried out on a last-generation Outremer 51, as part of a first collaboration with Héole. This French start-up, located in Brittany, is one of the first in France to design sails composed of flexible organic photovoltaic membranes and fabrics. An ingenious idea for imagining the sailboat of tomorrow: it was only natural for Outremer to join in on the project!


The team that made it possible

This small but ambitious start-up founded in 2021, is composed of a team of four:

  • Guillaume Wantz, Organic PhotoVoltaic expert scientist;
  • Jean-Marc Kubler, luminotechnics expert;
  • Pierre Chabert, electrical expert and pioneer of the electric airship;
  • Anne-Cécile Loste, the manager.

Thanks to their skills in solar and geo-engineering, the first tests have been carried out on one of our catamarans: the Outremer 51.

But why the 51′? Initially, this prototype sail had been designed for a 50-foot catamaran, with the aim of proving itself in an offshore racing context. Eventually, the sail became available to other contenders open to innovation, and Outremer jumped at the chance.

“The Outremer 51 was the only catamaran in our range of the same size as the prototype sail, and a motivated owner let us carry out the first tests. The aim was to test these solar sails in different climatic conditions, particularly in winter, to determine their efficiency and performance in a variety of environments” – Romain Guiraudou, Electrical Engineer at Outremer (also known for his work on the project).


An innovative solution

The solar sails used in the tests are made from organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells. Although these cells produce around ten times less energy than traditional photovoltaic cells, their larger surface area of 10 m² (compared with 3-4 m² for a bimini, for example, which exposes only 50% of its surface) makes them more efficient. What’s more, these sails are transparent and feature bifacial panels, enabling energy to be generated regardless of the boat’s orientation in relation to the sun, thus improving overall performance.

“An organic solar panel is like a conventional solar panel, except that the materials inside are completely different. It’s a thin-film system with transparent electrodes, with polymer – ‘plastic’ – which are very advanced, chemically, scientifically, and that can conduct electricity.” – Guillaume Wantz for Voiles&Voiliers

Another step towards sustainable boating

We have decided to work with Héole because we share similar values. At Outremer, our aim is to make eco-design more widespread, by optimizing the environmental performance of our boats at every stage of their life. This innovative solution fits in perfectly with the development of low-tech on-board our Outremer catamarans.

With boat use accounting for the bulk of the overall footprint of boat ownership, turning to sustainable solutions is a first step towards sustainable boating.

“The organic quality of the processes used by HÉOLE means that the energy consumed during manufacturing and required for its recycling can be recovered in a very short amount of time, unlike other solar technologies commonly used for solar panels.” – Guillaume Wantz


Production costs that should drop

As far as the price and availability of the technology are concerned, the cost of producing solar sails is expected to fall as manufacturing capacity increases. Over the next two years, it should therefore be possible to produce more solar sails at lower cost, paving the way for wider adoption of this technology.

The OPV cells used in solar sails require less energy to manufacture than conventional silicon-based photovoltaic cells. What’s more, they are produced by printing, which is a faster and more efficient method. It takes just a few weeks to recoup the energy required to produce them.


Encouraging prospects

This technology, which is still undergoing testing (and not yet on the market), offers significant advantages, not least the ability to double or even triple energy production when sailing. With a potential increase in production capacity over the next two years, solar sails could revolutionize the sailing industry by offering a clean, renewable energy source to meet on-board energy needs.

How about you? Would you test these solar sails? Héole is currently looking for owners who would be willing to test this innovative technology!


For more information about Outremer, access our Press Room

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