FTL to unveil new solar fabric products at Outdoor Retailer Tradeshow

Solar photovoltaic cells are finding their ways into all kinds of things these days from solar-powered plastic toys to solar-powered keyboards and now solar-powered party tents and deck covers.

FTL Solar will present its solar and fabric integration at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Tradeshow, taking place Jan. 20-23 in Salt Lake City.

The company was founded in 1977 as FTL Design Studio in New York, said Michael Brozgul, director of business development. It presented the first thin-film photovoltaics integrated with fabric at the Under the Sun trade show in New York in 1998, he said, and got a lot of attention. The attention came with grants and interest from NASA and the military. That interest helped to grow the company.

FTL Solar separated from its sister FTL Design Studio in 2006 and began producing sturdy fabric-integrated solar products for the military and personal use. Their most popular products include the PowerFold, which is a collapsible portable solar charger that can be rolled out to collect energy for charging cell phones and lap tops on the go.

The PowerMod integrates high-efficiency thin-film solar cells from Ascent Solar with its proprietary lamination technology using monster mesh fabric. The fabric is heavy-duty and strong, but see through, Brozgul said. It comes in a 300-watt version or 1,200-watt version. The 1,200 watt PowerMod is 20 feet by 20 feet and can be used to charge a lithium battery, power devices like fans, space heaters and laptops or feed back into the electric grid.

Unlike traditional solar installations, the PowerMod is lightweight and portable and can easily move with a homeowner or renter.

The company also uses a fire-rated poly-vinyl fabric commonly used in party tents.

Brozgul said FTL Solar has recently contracted with Classic Party Rental to outfit the company with solar-powered party tents and is currently working on making use of the tent sidewalls, which have historically been unclaimed real estate.

“We’ll be creating a lot of power with that,” Brozgul said.

The tents can collect power during the day that will be stored in lithium phosphate batteries and used to power lights, music, and fans or heaters for night-time events.

FTL will present its full line of PowerFold products at the trade show this weekend. The company is also looking to work with partners in building solar-powered parking structures with its solar integrated fabric, Brozgul said.

“It’s a big year,” Brozgul said. “2011 has already opened up a lot of doors.”

Pictured: FTL's new Single Pole 24-volt PowerMod, courtesy of FTL Solar.