(Photo Source: Google Images -- pictures of renewable and clean sources of energy)
A few weeks back, I blogged about Solar Impulse II — the solar powered aircraft that has a bold mission to travel around the globe. Reading it for the first time, a plane planning to circumnavigate the world may not seem much. However, Si2 (Solar Impulse II) aims to accomplish this without the use of conventional energy (oil, gasoline, fossil fuels, etc...).
Instead, the aircraft will solely rely on the free energy provided by the sun. Anyway, for those who missed that post, you can read it here: Si2 and its vital role to inspire change. Additionally, here is a little update – I am happy to report that Solar Impulse II has already accomplished its objective last month (July 23 to be precise)
(Photo Source: Google Images -- a photo of Si2)
Moving on, this post is quite similar to that blog. But this one will highlight another innovative mode and modern form of clean-tech vehicular transportation. As you may have probably guessed (since I already tackled a futuristic air-based vehicle), this post will showcase solar powered water-based travelling machines.
LOOK — Solar Powered Boats!
(Photo Source: Google Images -- pictures of solar boats and solar ships)
Yes folks, you read that right! If there are solar powered airplanes, then there are also solar powered boats. It is also interesting to note that this type of vehicles has been around far longer than its air-based counterparts that a number of which are already available commercially.
If memory serves, the first practical solar water vehicle was developed somewhere in England — around 1975. On top of this, there are also Solar Powered SHIPS – if Solar Impulse II can only carry one person (the pilot), solar ships can carry much much more during a cruise.
Later in this post, I will feature some prominent solar marine vehicles. But for now I'll give an overview on how such vehicular marvels work.
Key Elements and Components
For obvious reasons, solar panels are a key component for such machines to work. But of course, not just any type of solar panels must be used. For readers who are not that familiar with solar panels, which are also known as photovoltaic (PV) arrays, there are different types of this material whose function is dependent on the application.
(Photo Source: Google Images -- picture of solar panels equipped on a boat)
In this case, one must consider PV panels that will complement the structure of the boat / ship. Besides its physical dimensions – efficiency, absorption power, and energy output are also critical aspects of the solar panel. Another key concern is mounting. PV arrays should be installed in a location that has maximum exposure to the sun.
Anyway, proper installation of suitable solar panels at the most appropriate locations is highly imperative to run the water automotive. This is because every bit of sun rays that are collected / absorbed by the solar cells is converted to electricity. The newly converted electricity will then use to power up the motor that essentially drives the propellers.
Aside from solar panels that absorb and convert sun rays to electricity, storage batteries are another important component of a solar water vehicle. Similar to solar panels, there are various types of batteries that best fit a specific application — there's the deep cycle type, dual purpose batteries, starting batteries, etc...
(Photo Source: Google Images)
However, when it comes to boats, the battery must be able to accomplish two important tasks:
(a) Starting the engine
(b) Running electrical loads such as lights, accessories, etc...
Lastly, the battery system must also be able to sustain the boat / ship during night time or low light conditions. Needless to say, a solar powered water vehicle may encounter some hiccups when the sun is not around and there's no sufficient power left in the battery banks.
Solar powered marine vehicles that you should know
Now that we have a better idea or understanding how solar boats / ships work, let us now look at three models that are highly interesting.
MS Tûranor PlanetSolar
(Photo Source: Wikipedia.org)
Let me start with MS Tûranor PlanetSolar for two excellent reasons:
• It currently holds the title of largest solar powered boat
• Just like Si2, it was able to journey across the globe using only solar energy
MS Tûranor PlanetSolar was built in Germany. It was designed by an Auckland-based yacht designing and naval architectural firm – LOMOcean Design. However, the company that physically constructed the boat was Knierim Yachtbau (although the watercraft itself is registered in Switzerland). Overall financial cost of MS Tûranor PlanetSolar almost reached $14 million which was shouldered by a German entrepreneur.
On September 27, 2010, MS Tûranor PlanetSolar set sail with the objective of travelling around the globe. After 584 days, visiting 28 countries, and covering a distance of more than 60,000 km, it achieved its objective and returned back to Monaco on May 4, 2012.
After its historic journey, the impressive watercraft was used as a luxury yacht – but nowadays, it serves as Geneva University’s marine research laboratory.
(Photo Source: Transatlantic21.org)
Otherwise known as the Transatlantic 21 project (but it is actually only a part of said project), this solar powered boat crossed the Atlantic for 52 straight days without using a single drop of oil (but it if were to use said dirty fuel, it would approximately gulp more than 3,700 litres). Anyway, Sun21 with its 5-man crew made world records as the first ever solar powered boat that crossed the Atlantic Ocean – that is a distance of 7,000 miles.
Sun 21 was constructed by the firm shipyard MW-Line whose forte is building solar boats. On December 3, 2006, Sun 21 set off from Seville Spain and accomplished its journey when it arrived on the French town of Marin on February 3, 2007.
S B Collinda
(Image Source: mosssolar.com/solar_boats.htm)
Just like the two solar powered boats above, the SB Collinda also made records as the first solar powered boat to cross the English Channel. The 350 mile channel is the body of water that separates the southern part of England from the northern portion of France. SB Collinda crossed this channel within a timespan of 375 minutes.
Similar to other solar powered boats, SB Collinda sports solar panels, battery storage system, electric motor, and a mobile power station.
That's just about it. Remember, there are more solar powered boats available. The ones I featured here are some that have achieved something significant in that particular sector.
Additionally, solar is just one source of renewable energy. Other sources include hydro, wind, geothermal, etc... Here are also two excellent links that discusses (in a sort) Climate Change, Global Warming, and other important aspects of that subject:
Lastly, let me end this post with two amazing videos showcasing the innovative technology behind solar powered boats (both clips are from YouTube.com)