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What's New in Solar Powered Boating?

By Kristy Hoare on in Solar Technology

What's New in Solar Powered Boating?

If you have been on boating trip with your family, you might have noticed how the fuel prices have gone so high up, even when you're traveling at sea-level. On one such trip, we stopped for fuel and I was beyond shocked when I noticed the diesel cost more than $1,000 for just one top up!

That got me thinking about how solar energy should be used for cruising the seas, and I found out there are many companies out there making boats that are utilizing the sun and creating solar powered boats.

With fuel cost going up from hundreds to thousands of dollars, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised how boats are also going solar nowadays.

Take a look at Solar Sailor, for instance. This ferry is currently located at the Sydney Harbour and available for charter, along with its patented SolarSails„¢ and Hybrid Marine Power„¢ technologies.

Solar Sailor Sydney

Her sails have solar panels mounted on them in a manner that allows them to pivot in any direction to best harness wind or solar power, and they can fold away flat on the roof when they're not needed. Talk about sheer brilliance! No wonder they received the WWF Futuremakers Award in 2012 for "possibly the greatest revolution in boats since the advent of steam".

Then there is the mighty MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, which is said to be the world's largest solar-powered boat.  She does transatlantic expeditions for research and is currently registered in Switzerland. 

MS Tûranor PlanetSolar

PlanetSolar's mission is to raise awareness of climate-change issues among the public by demonstrating the potential for solar technology in this new era. The great vessel designed by LOMOcean Design runs completely on solar power and stores it in lithium-ion batteries - her entire 500 square meters deck is covered with solar panels!

In 2013, after an engine refit, Tûranor PlanetSolar broke its own transatlantic record, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in only 22 days. This year, she has been cruising the Mediterranean Sea, dropping its first anchor at Boulogne-sur-Mer (France), and is currently on its way to Attalayoun (Morocco) as part of its 2014 campaign, where local authorities look forward to her role in encouraging the use of renewable energy as part of a revitalization project. Tûranor PlanetSolar will also host parts of the 2014 Solar1 Monte Carlo Cup - the first solar boat race organized in Monaco. Needless to say, she's been one busy vessel, and she hasn't even arrived in Greece to resume her role as a scientific platform to study submerged prehistoric landscapes!

By now, if you're anything like me - and I love boats as much as I love solar energy - you're probably wondering how much time it will be before solar-powered boats become commercially available. Unfortunately, hybrid systems for consumer boats are not yet widely available. 

For boats to be able to use solar energy, realistically speaking, they need to be hybrid so that they can convert solar energy into electric energy to run the motor, and also to be able to burn fuel - at least for backup purposes, if nothing else. At the Miami International Boat Show in 2010, there were some hybrid concept possibilities, such as the one by Mercury Marine, but there has been no update available on its production at the time of writing this. But have you seen any one of the 300 Greenline Hybrid boats that have been parading all over the globe lately?

Greenline 40 Solar Powered Boat

They're luxury yachts which come in three sizes - 33 feet, 40 feet and 48 feet. As the only solar-powered boats in production, their ability to be energy efficient is not only marked by their ability to make use of the sun's rays hitting our dear planet. She also comes with a Superdisplacement low-drag hull designed to use less energy wading through water.

Greenline Solar Boats

If you're into cruising sports, you probably have your favourite cruising spots figured out. Regardless of whether they are located inland or offshore, lakes or waterways, the Greenline range is a treat could save you on fuel expenses as well.

Seaway designed it for one if its clients initially but the financial crisis took their client with it, and more than a year later, convinced of the boat's potential in the commercial market, they began production in 2010 and have delivered boats to 28 different countries to date.

With the exception of the availability of the Greenline Hybrids, solar power for boats is still more of a Do-It-Yourself industry. But the future is always bright with solar energy. What do you think?


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