Friday, August 10, 2012

Sexy, Fit and Happy To Run

The Turanor solar sailing vessel in Valletta, Malta. 

The crew gets the vessel ready to get under way in Malta.

Capitan Eric Dumont (holding the plaque) together with the Sunpower team.

From the water the ship looms high in the air.  Built of carbon fiber and powered by four electric engines, the ship is a high-tech example of what humanity can achieve by using the latest clean-energy solutions in transport and fabrication.  It looks cool too.
I caught up the Planet Solar team in the Valletta harbor, where she was parked beneath the bastions of the old castle of the Knights of St John.  This unique ship holds the world records for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by solar boat and the longest distance ever covered by a solar electric vehicle.  It was built by Immo Stroher, a German investor who partnered with Swiss adventurer Raphael Domjan.  It is meant to show what solar power can already do, and is an ambassador for solar energy on a "victory lap" through the Mediterranean sea during the summer of 2012, carrying the banner for renewable energy to places like Malta, which currently generates most of its power by burning fuel oil.  In the next week I will explain more about this remarkable achievement, but in the meantime I wanted to share these images from the deck of the Turanor. 

The boat is an ambassador for solar power, a proof-of concept designed to showcase to the world what renewable energy can accomplish.  Wherever it goes people talk about, photograph it, and it helps create a dialogue about what can be done with today's technologies when they are implemented in new ways.

537 square meters of solar panels power the ship.  It has no back-up diesel power of any kind.  The lights of Valletta at night are reflected in the coating of the panels.  The ship can operate for days without sunlight on just the batteries alone.

The cockpit shines red at night, lit by navigation-grade LED lighting systems.  When Captain Eric Dumont arrived at the wharf, the attendant asked him what kind of shore power the boat takes, Eric offered to give the island power from his own batteries.

The Turanor just after sunset.  The boat is heavy, about 82 metric tons, and made to slice through the water using it's sharp pontoons.  Inside the pontoons are six and half tons of lithium ion batteries, each.

Sunpower manufactures the solar panels on the ship, and maintains that the panels can still generate power even when the sun is low in the sky like this. 

The ship navigating out of Valletta harbor.  The ship runs slowly, using a minimum of power.  It can go about 14 knots, but usually navigates at about 4-7, carefully structuring it's use of power. 

Leaving Valletta, the capital of Malta.  The ship needs only a crew of four, but can travel with as many as forty people on board.

All Images Copyright Jeffrey Barbee/

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