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Solar Watercraft

Solar boats have unique advantages that make them somewhat more amenable to solar power than other vehicles. Boats that are used infrequently are able to capture solar energy over long periods of time and store it in batteries. Recreational watercraft can be 100% solar powered if they are used infrequently, with long periods between each use.

The other advantage that solar watercraft have is weight. Because they float on water weight has less impact on performance than it does in other types of vehicles. This means that boats can carry high capacity batteries and that they can use heavier duty solar panels.

Turanor PlanetSolar

Built in Kiel, Germany by LOMOcean Design, PlanetSolar is a solar powered catamaran-style yacht. It has a length of 31 meters, a width of 15 m, and a weight of 85, metric tons. It operates on 2 permanent magnet synchronous electrical motors rated at 60 kW and 2 permanent magnet synchronous electrical motors at 10 kW. It has a maximum speed of 26 km/h and cruising speed of 14 km/h. Total cost to build was € 12.5 million. PlanetSolar was launched in March 2010 is currently on a circumnavigation tour that began at the end of May 2011 and it take it 40,000 km around the globe.

The 13 metric ton lithium-ion battery can store 1.3 megawatt-hours of energy at full charge and power the boat for up to 3 days without sunlight. It requires approximately 2 days of full sun exposure on the 38,000 solar cells, which are 19% efficient, to recharge the batteries if it is not drawing power. The cells are also enough to produce the 20 kilowatts of power needed to keep the boat at cruising speed in full sun. Their maximum energy output is approximately 100 kW. The cells are actually 22% efficient, but special plastic and composites that protect the cells from sea water decrease efficiency to 19%.

Sun21 (Transatlantic 21)

This solar powered boat was designed by and is 100% solar. It has a length of 14 m, a width of 6.6 m, and a weight of 12 tons (U.S.). It operates on 2 electric motors capable of 8 kW each. Maximum speed is 13 km/h and cruising speed is 9 km/h.

In 2007, the Sun21 became the first boat to travel across the Atlantic Ocean using only solar power. The 7000 mile voyage began in Basel, Switzerland starting on October 8, 2006. It ended in New Your City on May 8, 2007; 7 months later.

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