For those of us on smaller boats, it’s always a challenge to figure out how and where to place enough solar panels to power our electrical needs. The past several years have brought lots of innovations, and now comes an Italian company that has created a foldable solar panel inspired by science (NASA satellites), art (origami), and fun (Legos).
Unlike a single panel that you hang on your stern pulpit or stanchions, propping it up when convenient, or a flexible panel you drape over the boom at anchor, the Levante Origami solar panel unfolds from a 75-watt, compact, closed position to a flat, 330- or 500-watt, fully expanded position. With bifacial solar cells, it can gather energy from either side and multiple positions.
“The panel’s modular design also means that multiple panels can be plugged in together and used simultaneously to generate additional power,” the company says in a media release. “On the other hand, if only a small amount is needed, e.g. for a day trip, an individual can just detach and use one of the modules of the panel.”
Levante founders Sara Plaga and Kim-Joar Myklebust, both sailors and vanlifers with two kids, teamed up with the popular YouTubers Sailing Uma to develop the prototypes and perfect the concept in the field on Uma, an electrically powered 1972 Pearson 36. Plaga and Mykleburst conceived the idea for the panels as they were traveling with their kids, finding it frustrating that solar options for smaller boats and vehicles were so bulky, space restrictive, and limited.
The frame is made of recycled carbon fiber, which helps the 500-watt version weigh in at only 28 pounds (20 pounds for the 330-watt)—about 20% less than other foldable panels. Levante is starting production in October with delivery to the U.S. by December. The 330-watt version is $1,999 and the 500-watt version is $2,499. levante.eco