Solar-powered trimaran plans around the world challenge

Solar-powered trimaran plans around the world challenge
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May 15, 2006 Last December, we reported on the remarkable Swiss SolarImpule Project which aims to circumnavigate Planet Earth by air using solar power. Now another Swiss project plans to circle the planet using a trimaran, propelled by renewable energies. Two distinct itineraries are planned. From 2008 to 2009, the first around-the-world tour, powered by solar energy, will be undertaken with a schedule allowing for 120 days with stopovers. The planned boat will be 30 meters long, 16 meters wide with a solar panel area of 180 square metres. The second around-the-world tour is foreseen for 2010-2011. It will be a voyage without stopovers, powered by solar energy and hydrogen; taking place in 80 days. The project, which has adopted Henry Dunant’s famous quote, “"Only those who are crazy enough to thinkthat they can change the world, will!" as its catchcry, is currently seeking sponsors.

Three main principles underlie the Swiss-French PlanetSolar challenge: Demonstrate the potential for renewable energies, especially solar power, through ambitious technological developments; inform the general public and increase their awareness on the importance of these energy sources; and, limit negative impact on ecology and human beings, in the greatest possible way. “We’d like to be the Phileas Foggs of the 21st century. However, our project aims to reach beyond the dreams of Jules Verne and be of service to mankind and the environment, in an effort to overcome conventional fossil fuel dependency,” asserts the project’s founder, Raphaël Domjan, from Neuchatel, Switzerland.

Two distinct itineraries are planned. From 2008 to 2009, an around the world tour with stopovers, powered by solar energy, in 120 days will be undertaken. “The optimization of the links between stopovers is essential,” emphasizes Pascal Goulpié, Scientific Coordinator of the PlanetSolar project, “because it is important to integrate the classic parameters of open sea navigation, such as dominant currents, but also to add an elemental and new factor: the sunlight. This means developing a new approach to sea navigation that will perhaps be the guiding precedent in tomorrow’s maritime transport.” The Scientific Coordinator also added that, ”While furnishing the boat with provisions at port stopovers, the project will be provided with an ideal opportunity for high visibility, as well as a way to present the driving force of its philosophy. In this context, key stopover points will be defined with the sponsors.” The kick off for the financial partner and sponsor search (one to three main sponsors for the boat) also begins today.

The second around the world tour is foreseen for 2010-2011. It will be a voyage without stopovers, powered by solar energy and hydrogen; taking place in 80 days. It will follow the path of the Vendée Globe Race route, passing through the Cape of Good Hope and the mythical Cape Horn. “Even though this journey will take us through some of the roughest seas of the planet, we intend to prove that hybrid vehicles are effective and reliable,” admits Raphaël Domjan, who will be one of the two co-navigators on the PlanetSolar boat.

A model of this completely innovative boat was also unveiled today. The boat will measure 30 meters in length, with a width of 16 meters. The solar panels’ surface of this enormous “bird of the sea,” gracing the boat’s futuristic design, will cover 180 m2. “We will do everything in our power so that each and every one of PlanetSolar’s components, such as the light bulb filaments of the sidelights, respect the rules of sustainable development,” insists Raphaël Domjan. The boat’s conception will be undertaken by the MW-Line Ltd. Company, in Yvonand, Switzerland; the European leader in electrosolar boats. “The very architecture of the ship will rely on the wavepiercer concept (which cuts through the waves).

The float’s shape supports the trimaran in maintaining its navigational angle and passes through the waves, rather than going underneath them, “ explained Richard Mesple, Project Manager, before concluding, “The project will be lead with the support of top engineering schools and research institutes. Our challenge will be to construct a craft of buoyant lightness and extreme finesse, and which will also exhibit great sturdiness and maximum efficiency.”

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