In a highly informative and detailed education session during the IFAI Fabricators Conference & Showcase on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, John Martin, Ph. D., Appalachian State University, gave a presentation that examined the history, present day use and future of solar and wind energy in the marine industry. Through a combination of videos and slides, Martin showed numerous examples of navy, research and pleasure vessels equipped with all sorts of renewable power options. He says the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind-powered energy systems have come down dramatically in the past decade, along with a steep decrease in lithium-ion battery costs paired with an enormous increase in demand.
Martin presented many examples of vessels using hybrid electric energy, solar and wind power, including wind-powered Saildrones, which are currently collecting research data around the world. Martin believes the future looks bright for solar energy with enormous advancements in paint-on solar applications, solar fabrics and more.
“Solar integration into fabric or flexible solar is the golden dream,” says Martin. He is currently working with several companies on developing solar paints; thin films that can be incorporated into and painted on products. He sees this happening within the next decade and believes that one PV advancement in particular, a self-assembling PV crystal called Perovskite, will be commonplace within a decade and will be sprayed on biminis, buildings, awnings and more to generate solar power and change the face of energy use and consumption across the globe.