'PlanetSolar' Ends World Odyssey – Solar Power System Proved Viable

By George Backwell at May 05, 2012 23:31
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The case for solar energy as a viable power source for marine propulsion was well made when news came just a few days ago that the world’s largest vessel entirely powered by solar energy, PlanetSolar, had completed its trans-world odyssey, returning to Hercule Harbour, Monaco, where it had set out for the world circumnavigation attempt.

An entry in the ship’s log the day before final arrival recorded the highest day’s energy yield –  661 kW hours –  from the 537 square meters of photovoltaic solar panels , the vessel’s sole source of energy,  since the voyage began on 27, September 2010.

PlanetSolar in Hamburg: Photo credit Wiki CCL Dr. Karl-Heinz Hochhaus

Constructed of weight-saving carbon fibre, the 31 m (101.7 ft) long PlanetSolar  (Swiss registered as Tûranor PlanetSolar or ‘Power of the Sun’ in Tolkien’s fiction) was launched in Spring 2010 from the Knierim Yachtbau shipyard in Kiel, Germany. Construction was to a design by LOMOcean Design (formerly known as Craig Loomes Design Group) for delivery to owners PlanetSolar SA, whose inspirational idea was to send the ship around the world with a view to showing that renewable energy and technology can be applied right now to achieve sustainable transportation.

Key to the success of the venture was the array of photovoltaic panels that predominate the upper deck of the vessel, totally responsible for capturing the energy to drive the four electric motor propulsion system that give Solar Planet a cruising speed of 7.5 knots, or for shorter periods a maximum 14 knots.

DuPont Tedlar® polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) film was used as an essential component of the photovoltaic ‘backsheet’ that was key to protecting the PlanetSolar’s panels (also supplied by DuPont) in the harsh weather conditions encountered by ‘Planet Solar’ over the nineteen month long voyage.

 “Our planet deserves a better, brighter and cleaner future,” said Raphaël Domjan, initiator and leader of PlanetSolar's expedition who first conceived the idea for the boat in 2004.  "I hope our success will motivate engineers and scientists to continue to develop innovative technologies …”

In complete accord with Domjan’s motivational ideals we are reminded that the annual ‘Dong Energy Solar Challenge’ (formerly known as the ‘Frisian Solar Challenge’) kicks off in The Netherlands in July next. Far smaller solar-powered boats than the PlanetSolar compete for six days over a 220 km course through the Frisian waterways with the aim of promoting sustainable energy among young people and students in technical colleges; the organisers have an eye to the part these participants may play in the future commercial development of solar-powered marine propulsion systems.

Dong Energy Solar Challenge Entrant: Photo credit Dong Energy



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