How Solbian uses ocean racing to develop its solar products – sponsored article

Launched in 2009 in Avigliana, west of Turin, on the initiative of Giovanni Soldini and physicist Marco Bianucci, Italian solar panel manufacturer Solbian immediately specialized in the world of yachting and competitive sailing. The aim was to produce lightweight, flexible photovoltaic modules equipped with MPPT charge controllers – a system that didn’t exist at the time.

The first to tst them was Giovanni Soldini himself, before the launch of Solbian, on the Class40 on which he won the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2007 and the Transat anglaise in 2008. Since then, collaborations have been forged with a number of ocean racers, from Boris Herrmann to Ambrogio Beccaria, via Giancarlo Pedote, Kojiro Shiraishi and Yannick Bestaven, whose Imoca Maître CoQ launched in 2022 has been fitted with Solbian anti-slip solar panels.

“We chose to work with Solbian because we knew the brand provided satisfaction,” explains Jean-Marie Dauris, technical and sporting director of the Maître CoQ team. “After some initial feedback, notably from the Route du Rhum, we were able to define our energy needs precisely and set out our final requirements. We had to make the most of every available space on the roof. Solbian was able to offer us a totally customized and efficient solution.” A total of ten panels weighing less than 8 kg.

Solbian’s expertise in photovoltaics also enabled it to forge a major partnership in 2017 with the Energy Observer project. The laboratory ship, which is about to complete a seven-year round-the-world voyage powered by renewable energies, is equipped by the transalpine manufacturer. “We have installed around a hundred flexible solar panels from the SP series, the most advanced in our range. The Energy Observer is an excellent laboratory for our panels and a showcase for our capabilities”, confirms Milena Milani, Solbian’s Communications Manager.

On the Energy Observer side, Marin Jarry, the boat’s outfitting manager and captain, confirms: “The technical partnership with Solbian is invaluable for us, because we were able to use customized, innovative products. We’ve tested them in real-life conditions at all latitudes, and the feedback has been very rewarding.”

These collaborations on technically advanced projects enable Solbian teams to continue innovating to develop reliable, efficient products for all kinds of uses, as the company has expanded into other universes (caravans and motorhomes, trekking, tents and shelters…). Such is the case with the latest addition to the range, the SunBender Solar Kit, which includes a flexible solar panel, a charge controller and all the cables and connectors required for simplified installation.

A product on which Solbian, which employs around fifty people and is targeting sales of 8 million euros by the end of 2024, is counting to support its growth.“We can pride ourselves on being a world leader in marine applications of flexible solar energy, with over 100,000 panels sold, 80% of them abroad. We are currently finalizing the lease of a new building that will enable us to launch a third production line in the coming months, explains Milena Milani. This will enable Solbian to meet demand, particularly from ocean racing teams.

Photo: Mathieu Pelikan / Siam Images

In partnership with  Solbian   

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