Solar-Powered Boat Promises A Renewable Energy Future For Watercraft

Typically, when people talk about solar panels, it's usually in the context of implementing a renewable energy infrastructure to power homes and businesses, or occasionally to fuel cars. But one overlooked area where this technology might prove useful in the future is boating.

Driving home this fact is the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, a catamaran powered by 29,160 solar cells atop a 75 foot by 115 foot panel, which can travel at speeds of up to five knots (5.75 miles per hour). The Tûranor PlanetSolar is currently making its way along the East Coast, having made stops in Baltimore, New York and Boston, while completing a research mission led by faculty from the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

The goal of the research is to better understand the relationship between anthropogenic climate change and the planet's oceans. But the most of the attention is being focused on the vehicle itself, which produces zero carbon emissions and runs entirely on energy derived from sunlight.

"This project utterly reflects our University's missions as it combines education, research and public awareness. It makes perfect sense that Geneva is involved in such a project," said Jean-Dominique Vassalli, rector of the University of Geneva, in a news release. "The city of Calvin is indeed the cradle of global governance and a research hub where key climate change related issues are discussed by international organizations and world decision-makers."

The solar panels take up almost the entire surface area of the boat and achieve an conversion efficiency of 18 percent. However, it's easy to imagine that, as solar cell technology becomes more efficient, this technology will take up less space and become more useful for these applications.

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