Let’s just go ahead right now and concede that when it comes to cutting-edge solar-powered transport, Switzerland is badass.
The Swiss-hatched Solar Impulse sun-fueled airplane has recently flown across the United States, and will soon be on its way from Washington, D.C., to New York City. And already in the Big Apple: The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the world’s largest and most accomplished solar vessel, after sailing across the Atlantic and up the East Coast.
The boat, decked with enough solar panels to generate 93.5 kilowatts of power, arrived in New York on Monday to an appropriately prideful welcome from the Swiss consul general in New York, who called her “a great platform for promoting the spirit of Swiss innovation.”
But PlanetSoalr is on no mere PR tour; an interdisciplinary team from the University of Geneva has been looking to commit a little science along the way, studying the Gulf Stream, the warm, fast Atlantic current that plays such a profound role in climate patterns. The idea is that it is uniquely equipped to take physical and biological measurements of the water and air because “given the absence of polluting emissions, the atmospheric measurements won’t be distorted by residues associated with fuel combustion.”
PlanetSolar began its voyage from La Ciotat on the Côte d’Azur on April 8, then set out across the Atlantic from Las Palmas, Spain, on April 25. Less than a month later – in world-record time for a solar-electric boat – it had traveled 2,867 miles and reached St. Martin.
In the later stages of its fourth-month journey, the PlanetSolar will go from scientific data collector to trash collector. Working with the Waste Free Oceans Foundation, the catamaran “will be equipped with an ingenious trawling net – a sort of giant filtering scoop – that can collect up to 8 tons of marine pollution,” the team said.