Solar Boat Chases Sun Around the Globe

The Turanor PlanetSolar departed Monaco on September 27, heading out of the Mediterranean and making a 7.5 knots-per-hour beeline toward the Atlantic Ocean and the Equator. It’s there the solar-powered boat hopes to find abundant sunlight that will power it on an unprecedented voyage around Earth.

In attempting the first solar-only circumnavigation of the globe, the futuristic catamaran — said to be the world’s largest solar-powered boat — must travel more than 30,000 miles. That works out to some 160 days at sea for the six-man crew as it crosses the Atlantic Ocean, the Panama Canal, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and finally the Suez Canal before returning to the Mediterranean. And yes, of course, you can chart PlanetSolar’s progress on the web.

PlanetSolar_Catamaran

image via The Alternative Consumer

The 98-foot-long catamaran is powered by nearly 6,000 square feet of photovoltaic cells that top its hulls, and can store enough energy in its batteries to sail about three days even without sunshine. The boat was designed by New Zealander Craig Loomes and built by Knierim Werft in Kiel, Germany, with financial backing from Immo Stroher and the company he founded and guides, Rivendell Holding.

The PlanetSolar expedition aims to top that of the catamaran sun21, which in 2007 made a 7,000-mile jaunt across the Atlantic to New York City under strictly solar power. While swinging around the United States, the PolarSolar plans stops in New York and San Francisco to show itself off to visitors and “act as an important ambassador of the solar mobility idea.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.