On Wednesday, Türanor, a solar-powered boat–the largest of its kind–was put into water for the first time off of the northern German city of Kiel, where it had been under construction for the past 13 months. It will take another year or so for some intense testing before the white-and-blue-colored, two crew, solar-powered catamaran embarks on a first-ever, sailing-round-globe journey, set on April 2011. Cross ocean sailing in a much smaller solar-powered boat has been accomplished before, when the see Sun21 arrived in New York City after crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 2007. Will the world tour by Türanor, which stands more than twice as long as Sun21 and weighs almost 8 times more, traveling at more than double the speed of Sun21, signal a future of silent and clean marine travel?
Scores of black solar panels top the catamaran in an area of about 5,380 square feet, most of the vessel’s surface. Additional panels are attached to outriggers on all sections, right, left, and rear. The lithium ion battery used to store the solar energy is also the largest in the world. The catamaran, costing $24 million, is designed to save energy by slicing rather than riding through waves. It can run on its stored energy in the absence of sunlight for around three days at 7.5 knots. At slower speeds it could run for up to 15 days, according to its maker.
The technology is new and requires the boat to be as light as possible and so it would not suitable for heavy container ships right now. The intention is not so much to revolutionize sea travel, but “it’s strongly symbolic for the future of solar energy,” said one of the two skippers.
Türanor’s circumnavigation of the globe starts out from the Mediterranean Sea, crosses the Atlantic Ocean, stops in New York, slips through the Panama Canal, heads north to San Francisco, turns south across the Pacific to Darwin, Australia, docks in Singapore and Hong Kong, journeys into the Indian Ocean, visits Abu Dhabi, and finally passes through the Suez Canal back into the Mediterranean Sea. The entire voyage is scheduled to take 160 days at an average speed of 7.5 knots, the average speed of a shipping tanker. Top speed can reach 15 knots. To gain maximum physical exposure to the sun, the boat will go from east to west, opposite to the earth’s eastward rotation, and will also try to stay on an equatorial route – chasing the rays!
[image: planet solar]