The solar-powered houseboat: Coming to a marina near you

You don't hear too much in the news these days about houseboats, let alone ones that incorporate renewable energy sources to provide them with electricity.

Yet London-based green design firm Sanitov Studios has taken a big step forward in the aquatic residential market with The Ark, a fully functioning houseboat that includes solar panels and other state-of-the-art technologies.

The Ark is equipped with a solar panel arrangement capable of producing 2 kilowatts of clean energy, and its designers hope that, with power-saving measures built into the ship, it will stay below 1,000 kilowatts per year in terms of usage. Additionally, in order to capture as much sunlight as possible but compensate for the fact that the houseboat moves, Sanitov opted for a specially-designed array of panels that are capable of producing more energy during periods of lower-than-average light.

Another feature, according to the designer's website, is the Lutron processing system. This power conduit network automatically cuts lighting output by 20 percent. The Ark also includes an air-based heat pump, a "green wall" to consume carbon dioxide and capture panels on the roof to collect rain water.

According to the British clean energy news source Solar Power Portal, Sanitov has an operational prototype already floating on the Thames. It recently saw action during the London 2012 Olympic Games, when several Danish athletes stayed aboard during their visit.

While the Ark is only a prototype, the exciting developments behind it make it seem all but certain that Londoners and other waterside city dwellers could see houseboats like it plying along the coast. At the very least, it's certainly a big step forward for renewable energy designers who are looking to revolutionize how we live.

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