World's largest solar powered boat on the move

20th Jun 2013

Solar power continues to prove its versatility and robust nature. How it can be used in our day to day lives is limited to only the imagination.

The world's first solar powered plane has already taken flight, so why not set a new record for the world's largest solar powered boat?

That's exactly what the MS Turanor PlanetSolar (project name PlanetSolar) boat has been doing. Last year, it became the first ever solar electric vehicle to circumnavigate the globe, securing its place in history.

According to CleanTechnica, on May 18 of this year, the vessel beat its own speed record for a solar-powered transatlantic crossing.

This year's journey was shorter by four days, six hours and 38 minutes with a 22-day, 12-hour and 32-minute long journey.

The designer of PlanetSolar is New Zealander Craig Loomes, who researched and designed the vessel with engineers, optimising the energy collection and stocking, as well as the aerodynamics, propulsion and choice of materials. The ship was named Turanor as this word means 'power of the sun' in J.R.R Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings"trilogy.

Currently, the boat is taking a tour of the US and recently reached New York after avoiding tropical storm Andrea. This current tour is a scientific study of the Gulf Stream.

The focus of the research is to examine the key parameters of climate regulation, in particular aerosols and phytoplankton. Researchers hope to gain understanding of the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, and the role this plays in climate change.

As SolarPlanet itself is powered through solar energy and doesn't release any carbon emissions, it's a great asset for researchers as their atmospheric measurements won't be distorted by any fuel residue from the vessel.

The solar powered boat continuously optimises its route of travel depending on the level of sunlight. For instance, if an area is particularly cloudy for a long time, it will be avoided.

Next the boat will reach Boston, St John's in Canada and Reykjavik in Iceland. Researchers will disembark in Bergen, Norway, in August.

Such projects demonstrate the creative potential of solar power. It's not only panels on the roofs of households – it actually has a much more diverse set of uses and applications that are hugely exciting.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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