The world’s largest solar-powered boat – TÛRANOR PlanetSolar – departed from Monaco on September 27 in an attempt to become the first boat to circumnavigate the globe using only solar energy. Aside from getting another world record under the boat’s belt, the aim of the expedition is to demonstrate that, through the use of existing materials and technology, high-performance solar mobility can be realized today.
The multihull vessel is covered in 537 square meters (5,780 sq ft) of solar panels, which power the four electric motors (two in each hull) that have a maximum output of 120 kW and can propel the boat to a speed of 14 knots. Although the vessel is capable of hosting 40 passengers and is destined to be used as a luxury yacht after the circumnavigation attempt, the vessel is crewed by just six people and that is the number that will be making the round the world journey.
The 31 m (102 ft) long, 15 m (49 ft) wide vessel was built by Kiel-based boatbuilding firm, Knierim Yachtbau, using light yet durable carbon-sandwich construction. In total, 20.6 tons of carbon fiber, 11.5 tons of foam core and 23 tons of resin and hardener were used to create the craft, whose 537 square meters of solar panels consists of a total of 825 modules, equipped with 38,000 individual photovoltaic cells made by SunPower Corp. The energy they capture is stored in six blocks, each containing 12 lithium-ion batteries.
The vessel is driven by two contra-rotating carbon propellers that each have a diameter of almost two meters (6.6 ft), which is twice the usual size for a craft of the TÛRANOR PlanetSolar’s size. As only half the propeller is underwater, a “wheel effect” is created which makes it possible to steer the ship without a rudder.
At the time of publication, the TÛRANOR PlanetSolar had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was just north of Cuba, making its way towards its next planned stopover in Miami. Other planned stops for the PlanetSolar team include Cancun, San Francisco, Sydney, Singapore, Abu Dhabi before finishing in Monaco sometime in 2011.