Circling the Earth with Solar
On Friday, the solar-powered Turanor PlanetSolar finished its 19-month journey around the globe, returning to its home port of Monaco. The world’s largest solar-powered boat embarked in September, 2010, powered by 703 solar panels that charge lithium-ion batteries that power the vessel’s engine.
Along the way, insurance-carrier-mandated backup diesel engines were never used, and the biggest technical problem the vessel encountered was bird droppings on the photovoltaic panels near the Galapagos Islands.
For tech-fact geeks, thanks to Scientific American: “The carbon-fiber boat, 31 meters long and 15 meters wide, has a flat deck that is plastered with solar panels made by SunPower. Flaps can fold out to expose additional panels, creating a total solar area of 537 square meters (5,700 square feet). The panels, which average 18.8 percent efficiency—among the highest for commercial products—charge six banks of lithium-ion batteries that can generate up to 93.5 kilowatts of power (about 127 horsepower) and keep the catamaran going for three days with no sun. Top speed: 27.3 kilometers per hour (17 mph, 15 knots). The hull and outriggers are designed to minimize air and water resistance.”
For everyone else: “We have shown that we have the technologies as well as the knowledge to become sustainable and safeguard our blue planet,” said Swiss engineer and expedition leader Raphael Domjan.
Photo by PlanetSolar.
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked at the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”