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Solar Boat To Cross the Atlantic 190

Posted by kdawson
from the sun-and-sea dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes, "A group from Switzerland will soon attempt the first Atlantic crossing in a solar-powered boat. This ship, named SUN21, is a 14-meter-long catamaran able to sleep 5 or 6 persons. The goal is to leave Seville, Spain, in December 2006 and to reach ports in Florida and New York in the spring of 2007. This boat will achieve its 7,000-mile trip at a speed of 5-6 knots, about the speed of a sailing yacht, by using photovoltaic cells and without burning a single gallon of fuel. The consortium behind this project wants to demonstrate that the time has come for solar boats." The boat will cost about $556,000 to build and it will be for sale at some point after its crossing.
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Solar Boat To Cross the Atlantic

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  • Been Done Already (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 17, 2006 @05:49PM (#16126608)
    Every sailing vessel is basically a solar powered boat. Been doing that for eons. Why change now?

    Catboats with sails makes a very reliable clip night and day with little or no fancy technology - and can easily be mated up to such a solar-panel system for an added kick and redundancy...

    • I can't see $500k price tags being mainstream fro a while.

      I'd have serious concerns about reliability etc. too. Consider that many sailing adventures end up with broken masts and similar misfortunes that people are able to recover from because they're using ancient technology. They can put together something that sails from broken masts and torn sails etc and limp in to port. Fixing up broken PV is probably not something you can just do armed with a hammer, saw and a knife.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kfg (145172) *
        . . .people are able to recover from because they're using ancient technology.

        When I can I even like to avoid winches and wire rigging. Ropes, block and tackle may fail slightly more often, but they're easier to handle and easier to create jury rigs out of when the shit hits the sails.

        Wire's for racers and dock sailors. Quite frankly, if you really need wire just to hold your mast up you've fucked up your engineering.

        PV's good for a bit of luxury now and again, but I would never ever bet my life at sea on i
      • They can put together something that sails from broken masts and torn sails etc and limp in to port.

        Aren't you a lot better not having sails or masts that can break in the first place? Combining your motive power with the area that takes the most strain doesn't seem like the best idea, at least when you have alternatives. Yes, sailing ships can tack into the wind, but its not what I'd call optimal.

    • Every sailing vessel is basically a solar powered boat.

      If you're going to claim wind power is the same as solar power you may as well call gasoline engines solar powered too: In each case the energy originally came from the sun. In reality, it is useful to make the distinction between all of these because each power source requires different methods to use and has different downsides. Even the environmental consequences of wind and solar voltaic are different if you consider the manufacturing process.

    • by malsdavis (542216) *
      "Every sailing vessel is basically a solar powered boat. Been doing that for eons. Why change now?"

      They're not changing away from sailing vessels now, the whole industry changed over 100 years ago. They are using a solar-powered, propellor driven vessel which - if the tachnology advances - will have many quite obvious advantages over traditional sailing vessels.

      • by stiggle (649614)
        Obvious advantages?

        Can motor when there is no wind - is the only one really.
        Sailing yachts can go faster than 5-7 knots, they;re more eco-friendly, they look better.
        Oh yeah, you need a clue to be able to sail them (although modern ones have reduced the need for proper cluefulness).

        I'd like to see a move BACK to sailing ships. They're more eco-friendly than making a whole load of solar panels, which could be used in places where the need is more pressing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Simon Brooke (45012) *

        They're not changing away from sailing vessels now, the whole industry changed over 100 years ago. They are using a solar-powered, propellor driven vessel which - if the tachnology advances - will have many quite obvious advantages over traditional sailing vessels.

        Yes, but modern sailing vessels have many quite obvious advantages over photovoltaic, as well as over traditional sailing vessels. Sailing technology hasn't stood still in the last hundred years, you know. Sailing vessels are faster - a lot fa

        • by malsdavis (542216) *
          Well, it's a bit idiotic not to comprehend that just because I stated solar power has some obvious advantages over sails, doesn't mean sails don't have any other advantages over solar power.

          The Solar powered boat does indeed have some 'obvious advantages' over sail, for one it can move when there is no wind or into the direction of the wind. Ellen Macarthur would have found it more difficult going in her sailing ship had she tried to circumnavigate the globe in the other directions as she would have been tr
      • They're not changing away from sailing vessels now, the whole industry changed over 100 years ago.

        More like 50 years ago. Coal steamers did not replace the tall ships -- they relied on them for their fuel! The size and weight of coal made it impractical to transport by steamer, so it was delivered by sailing vessels to ports the world over. It wasn't until the middle of last century that enough diesel and diesel-powered boats were available for the tall ships to be retired.

        HAL.

    • by bytesex (112972)
      Nerd. A sailing powered boat can't sail when there's no wind, and it can't sail against the wind. Sailing boats going across the atlantic have to go through special passat wind 'lanes' (north on the way to the US, south on the way back); a solar boat would have no issues with that.
  • by llZENll (545605)
    Why would you want to do this rather than using wind power and ocean currents?
    • Re:why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday September 17, 2006 @05:52PM (#16126623) Journal
      Because wind and currents don't always go in the direction you might want them to?
      • Re:why? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Millenniumman (924859) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @06:24PM (#16126798)
        Why does that matter? Sailboats can go in any direction other than straight into the wind. They aren't pushed forward by it.
        • by spun (1352)
          I know that. But solar powered boats can go in any direction with the same efficiency. Sailboats for the most part do best on a broad reach. And solar can power batteries for when there's no sun. I've never seen a wind battery for when there's no wind.
          • Even with batteries, the overall speed for this ship isn't better than a far cheaper sailboat. The ocean is generally windy, but it is only sunny during the day, and batteries are extremely inefficient and heavy.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by cbhacking (979169)
              Furthermore, while being becalmed is annoying, diesel will get you out of it nearly as well as electric (or you can wait it out). Near a storm, however, you need serious engine power and can be in overcast weather for weeks. Finally, sometimes 5 knots simply won't cut it; if that's the best this motor can do it is unlikely to get beyond hobbyists.
          • But solar powered boats can go in any direction with the same efficiency.

            They're still subject to the waves and currents just like any other boat... and there are many places where the currents exceed 5 knots.

            Sailboats for the most part do best on a broad reach.

            While this is true for almost every boat, many high performance boats exceed windspeed when they are on a broad reach. Even for cruisers, it's not unusual to do 70-90% of windspeed, even upwind. [In normal trade conditions, that generally means 9

        • Re:why? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by lowfatsugar (972297) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @10:48PM (#16127755)
          1. Effectively, sailboats can go "straight into the wind" by zigzagging (tacking). Unfortunately, this doesn't work so well in narrow channels (e.g. rivers). In this regard, the solar ship would have an edge, particularly on heavily used rivers.

          2. As many people here have pointed out, sailboats have been around for a very long time, meaning that we've had a lot of time to improve their design and construction. If the first generation of a solar ship can be competitive with current generation sailboats, I think that this bodes well for the solar ship in the long haul.

          3. Owing to the enormous forces involved in propelling a large ship using wind, the design, construction and operation of sailing vessels can be quite expensive. Half a million for a boat that can cross the Atlantic doesn't seem so bad, especially for a first-generation custom-built effort. With large scale production, I would expect to see prices come down.

          4. The masts, sails and standing rigging of a sailing vessel seem incompatible with modern top-loading cargo facilities, whereas I can imagine that a solar boat could be designed for compatibility with existing port equipment.

          5. Although batteries weigh a lot, so does fuel. And, unlike cars and trucks driving cross-country, ships crossing an ocean don't have the luxury of refueling, so they have to carry it all with them. On a solar-powered ship, you just need enough battery capacity to get you through cloudy patches.

          I'm not 100% convinced it'll work, but the idea has merit.
          • by AGMW (594303)
            5. Although batteries weigh a lot, so does fuel...

            I'm not sure the weight of the batteries is actually an issue. How much ballast would a boat like this carry anyway, and why couldn't all the ballast be batteries!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cheater512 (783349)
      Because they can. :)
    • by ZakuSage (874456)
      Because it's expensive, obviously.
    • Once that's established a solar/convenional Sail hybrid is the logical next step.

      It's a proof of technology, not a planned usurper to sail power, at least that's how I see it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by owlnation (858981)
      It's a Roland Pigpail article. It's delusional. No need to worry.
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 17, 2006 @05:51PM (#16126613)
    Finally, an alternative to the environmentally dangerous effects of the sail.
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I'm all for technology where technology is needed, but I hate it when people try to put technology where it doesn't belong. It's one thing to do this as an experiment, to show that it can be done, it's another thing to say that we are now at the point where we should be using solar boats regularly. It's like those washing machines with the 600 different washing modes. Nobody really needs all that, we only need maybe 5 or 6. There's no point to building stuff like this, and it only adds more points of fa
      • by jmauro (32523)
        Sails ships are fairly slow in crossing the Atlantic. Maybe this will be a faster way with propellers. Sails takes months to cross, prop boats take days.

        • by peragrin (659227)
          At 5-6 knots this boat will be passed by even the slowest sail boat that can safely cross the atlantic today.

          sailboats themselves use solar, and sometimes even a mini wind turbine to keep their electronic systems charged while saving gas for real emergencies.
        • by SEE (7681)
          Sails ships are fairly slow in crossing the Atlantic. Maybe this will be a faster way[.]

          Not reading the article is one thing, but not reading the summary?

          "This boat will achieve its 7,000-mile trip at a speed of 5-6 knots, about the speed of a sailing yacht[.]"
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Millenniumman (924859)
        Are you honestly implying that solar panels are worse for the environment than nuclear power plants? Are you willing to keep nuclear waste in you garage for thousands of years?
        • by meckardt (113120)
          During the operational life of solar cells, and of nuclear power plants, the environmental effects of each type of energy production are fairly insignificant. The environmental costs of each must be based on the production costs of the solar cells, and of the nuclear fuel, and the disposal costs of the nuclear fuel AND the disposal of broken solar cells (and the chemicals solar cells are toxic too).

          If you want to evaluate the relative environmental costs of various power generation methods, you have to inc
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        Sounds to me like it is NOT time for solar powered boats to make their debut since they're slower and more complicated than wind powered boats and cost a half million dollars.
        • by Glonoinha (587375)
          Not unlike electric cars of only a few years ago.
          It's a prototype, first generation stuff just to prove the concept.

          They get this whole 'electric boat' concept worked out and they will streamline the process, build on the knowledge they get during the first few generations and eventually they will reshape the hull into a more efficient shape (perhaps take clues from large sea-borne mammals like the dolphin or whale), establish a more effective way to create electricity (such as perhaps an onboard diesel gen
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ceoyoyo (59147)
            Experimental prototypes and test beds sure. That doesn't justify "the consortium behind this project wants to demonstrate that the time has come for solar boats." Just like the guy who flew across the English channel by pedaling. It was cool and it demonstrated some advanced aeronautical design but he didn't claim that the time has come for pedal powered flight.
            • by Glonoinha (587375)
              I agree, a single instance does not make a trend.

              That said, it is still first generation, proof of concept. With any luck we (as in we 'the world') will take advantage of all of the findings they uncover on their eight month 'journey of discovery' - doing things that people already do, but doing them from a completely different perspective ... can often point out plenty of inefficiencies that we have learned to accept or work around, and if they find a way to fix any of these (because they approached the p
              • by ceoyoyo (59147)
                I'm not disagreeing that these things aren't worth doing. Even if the pedal powered flight guy didn't discover winglets, he did discover or cause the discovery of other things.

                The "it's time for solar powered boats" thing is hype though. Unnecessary hype.
    • Re:Wow (Score:4, Informative)

      by westlake (615356) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @06:28PM (#16126829)
      Finally, an alternative to the environmentally dangerous effects of the sail.

      The North Atlantic is one of the most hostile environments on earth

      ---and they plan to make the crossing in January on solar power at a speed of 5 knots?

      This is nuts.

      • by Don_dumb (927108)
        I guess if it works in the winter, then it should work better in the summer and in regions with more constant daylight hours.
        They are testing in conditions less condusive to their success, so if this works then they can be fairly confident that it will work in most situations.

        And anyway you want it to be a proper challenge.
      • by Eivind (15695)
        Have a look at their webpage. The planned route goes south to the Canaries, then across, then back up north.

        I'm not sure 15 to 20 degrees north really qualifies as "The North Atlantic"

      • by AGMW (594303)
        The North Atlantic is one of the most hostile environments on earth

        Which might be why they are sailing south [transatlantic21.ch] from Seville to the Canaries, then south again to the Cape Verde islands before heading off across the Atlantic to St Martin, and thence Bahamas, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, then New York. Sure, they're sailing up the coast to New York, but they're not sailing straight across to New York.

  • by mr_stinky_britches (926212) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @05:56PM (#16126644) Homepage Journal
    But how much oil did it take to make the solar cells?
    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @06:07PM (#16126705) Homepage
      How much oil did it take for you to submit that comment? How much oil is it taking me to submit this comment. You can't discount the use of a technology just because the industries that support the technology aren't up to snuff. It's completely possible to produce solar panels without oil, and we shouldn't not use them because it currently requires industries that use oil in one way or another. I mean, at that rate, you might as well discount wood boats, because unless you're picking up the wood off the ground and tying it together with some hemp rope you managed to make yourself, then you're probably using a lot of oil in the process.
      • > "It's completely possible to produce solar panels without oil"

        No, it's not. You're thinking of the future, when it may be possible to do so. But this article is about "[demonstrating] that the time has come for solar boats".

        Make your argument based on what's possible now, please. Right now, solar cells require a large up front investment for a small long term payoff.

    • But how much oil did it take to make the solar cells?

      Certainly no more than some percentage of its wholesale cost (cost of manufacturing includes cost of materials, energy, labor, and lots of other things like marketing, licensing fees, etc.) Panels usually pay back their RETAIL cost in a few years (depends on the area you are in, if you use a tracking mount which grossly increases their daily output, etc.) There's a substanial net gain, since they easily last another decade past their break-even point

    • by dbIII (701233)
      But how much oil did it take to make the solar cells?
      Quite a lot - but that same really big chunk of zone refined silicon will provide a lot of other solar cells and probably a few thousand CPUs and other bits of electronics, so per unit it isn't much at all.

      The point that was entirely missed by the parent poster is that you don't have to take a lot of oil with you when you have the solar cells.

    • If we did, then we might notice that 14m * 6.5m * 1 kW m-2 * 15% efficiency ~= 13.65 kW ~= 18 horsepower. At mid-day, with no cloud cover.

      From "Choosing the Right Outboard For Your Boat" [smalloutboards.com], we find that an 18 horsepower motor is sufficient for a boat up to 25 feet (7.7m) and 600lbs (272 kg). The boat in question here is an Aquabus C60 [mwline.ch] variant, at 14m and weighing approximately 10000 kg when empty.

      Note that the standard boat has 2 x 16 kW motors, but a solar surface of only 20m2, which will produce only

  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @06:03PM (#16126689) Homepage
    What if the sun doesn't shine at all during the journey? After all, there's a lot of funky weather patterns going on these days.
  • Will it run (embedded) Linux to control the solar cells, battery, motor, etc.?
    • by Khyber (864651)
      That takes the fun out of sailing a boat, in the first place. Sorry, some things are better left to the devices of man instead of machine.
  • Wind-powered boats?
  • This seems utterly useless. I could see adding a bit of solar for thew little bit you'd use an engine (getting into port, etc) but reports suggest people who LIVE on sail boats year round only use about $1500 worth of diesel in a year (depending on price, this figure was from a few years ago).

    Its not like they're sucking the well dry everyday.
    • If you drive in a 20 mpg car, 10,000 miles per year, with $3 gas prices, you pay $1500 dollars per year for gas. Thats a rather inefficient car with less efficient, expensive fuel, greater speed, and no sail. This boat is useless, but imagine covering a giant non-nuclear gas powered ship with solar panels.
  • And most of us can't afford a 2 month journey to cross the Atlantic - even if is only costs a half a million dollars.

    Well, I guess it is an improvement over Kon-Tiki [wikipedia.org] which only had an ave speed of 1.5 knots. But at least it didn't use all this new-fangled technology!

    If transportation advancement followed CPU speed or Disk Drive storage - whoa nelly! We'd be burning our nads off, zipping around!

  • Oceans are great. Nothing in the way (bar a few icebergs and whales), few hills, low friction and its everywhere... well 2/3 of everywhere. Great for transporting huge amounts of stuff all over the world. Solar power not so much. Its only light for a few hours a day, its really hard to store, unless your a plant, and our currently technology extracts just over a third of the 1kW per square meter. I know container ships are measured in football pitches, but most of that surface area is doing something alread
  • by mh101 (620659) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @06:32PM (#16126860)
    Okay, so we currently have the ability to have the front page not show articles posted by specific Slashdot editors. How about expanding that, so we can specify specific submitters, such as Roland Piquepaille for example, who's articles don't show up?

    • by owlnation (858981)
      How about expanding that, so we can specify specific submitters, such as Roland Piquepaille for example, who's articles don't show up?
      I second that! Or better yet, let Pigpail fans (either of them) bookmark his blog so they can read in peace without him needing to submit his trite tabloid pseudoscience ramblings here.
  • From the article: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fredmosby (545378) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @06:33PM (#16126866)
    the ship will undertake the first motorized crossing of the Atlantic without using a drop of gasoline

    Except for all the nuclear powered ships and submarines.
  • by fire-eyes (522894) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @06:55PM (#16126979) Homepage
    Voice Over Mr. and Mrs. Watson of 'Ivy Cottage', Worplesdon Road, Hull, chose a very cunning way of not being seen. When we called at their house, we found that they had gone away on two weeks holiday. They had not left any forwading address, and they had bolted and barred the house to prevent us getting in. However a neighbour told us where there were.

    The camera has come to rest on a very obvious isolated beach hut; it blows up. Cut to a building site in a suburban housing estate. There is a Gumby standing there.

    Voice Over And here is the neighbour who told us where they were (he blows up) Nobody likes a clever dick. (cut to stock film of a small house) Here is where he lived (it blows up) And this is where Lord Langdon lived who refused to speak to us (it blows up). So did the gentleman who lived here....(shot of house: it blows up)... and here ...(ditto) and of course here.....(a series of quick cuts of various atom bombs and hydrogen bomb at moment of impact) and Manchester and the West Midlands, Spain, China ...(mad laugh)

    Cut to a presentation desk. The film is on a screen behind. We see it stop behind him as the presenter speaks.

          Presenter Ah, well I'm afraid we have to stop the film there, as some of the scenes which followed were of a violent nature which might have proved distressing to some of our viewers. Though not to me, I can tell you.

    (cut to another camera; the presenter turns to face it,)

    In Nova Scotia today, Mr Roy Bent of North Walsham in Norfolk became the first man to cross the Atlantic on a tricycle. His tricycle, specially adapted for the crossing, was ninety feet long, with a protective steel hull, three funnels, seventeen first-class cabins and a radar scanner. (A head and shoulders picture of Roy Bent comes up on the screen behind him) Mr Bent is in our Durham studios, which is rather unfortunate as we're all down here in London. And in London I have with me Mr Ludovic Grayson, the man who scored all six goals in Arsenal's 1-0 victory over the Turkish Champions FC Botty. (he turns) Ludovic... (pull out to reveal that he is talking to a five-foot-high filing cabinet) first of all, congratulations on the victory.

          Mr Grayson (from inside filing cabinet) Thank you, David.

    Anyway, very silly stuff, you get the point.

    http://www.ibras.dk/montypython/episode24.htm#11 [ibras.dk]

  •       You run into a dark, cloudy storm, and lose power. And the worse the storm is, the less chance you have of developing any power. For some reason, that doesn't sound like much more than a one-off gimmick to me.

          Yes, you could store energy in batteries, but storing enough power to get that boat very far in storm winds means a LOT of weight, which means a lower draft, more resisitance, and the need for more panels....

    steve
  • Hybrid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @07:05PM (#16127047) Homepage Journal
    I think what's most interesting about this is hybrid vessels, that use both sail and solar power. Obviously the big limitation with sailboats is a lack of wind, which often occurs in fair-weather scenarios (high pressure system, thus clear skies). Solar propulsion would often complement wind power when needed most. It would also be useful for the other times when sail power is not used, such as navigating in and out of the docks.

    Dan East
  • by drDugan (219551) * on Sunday September 17, 2006 @07:40PM (#16127221) Homepage
    time for what? really expensive toys that take several months to get across the Altantic?

    anything but mainstream.

  • Nice idea, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pete314159 (858893) on Sunday September 17, 2006 @08:28PM (#16127416)
    From the web-page: "Much of the expanding long-distance goods traffic on our oceans as well as many leisure boats could be powered by ecological solar energy. Solar energy will be the future of navigation techniques. But it needs more publicity and more confidence."

    It sounds nice, but the practical application for the actual transportation of goods is something else.

    The great things about ships is that the volume increases as a cubic function (roughly) of the length, but the drag only increases as the square. The area available to solar energy is more like a direct linear relationship to length what with ships being kind of long and skinny. That means that you can eventually build a ship big enough to carry it's own fuel to cross an ocean, and if you go bigger it can carry cargo even. Bigger still means more cargo with less fuel per cargo needed (generally). This is why we now have 1000 foot long container ships and 300,000 DWT ULCCs (Ultra Large Crude Carriers). But these ships that require less energy per volume still require a *lot* of energy, and not just energy, put power too (they need that energy fast). For example, the ship I work on (600 feet long by 75 feet wide, about 20,000 GRT--small by today's standards) requires about 14,000 horsepower to travel at about 17 knots when fully loaded. Just using a crude area approximation for the ship's dimensions and, say, 33% efficiency for solar cells you would get about 1630 kW of power, or about 2180 horsepower. 2180 horsepower won't even move a ship that size fast enough to maintain steerage. This isn't even mentioning the other auxiliary electrical loads associated with a ship (pumps, motors, air conditioning, sewage processing, etc.). Factoring average load for my ship in to that, you get about 1000 kW (1350 HP) available for propulsion. This is like trying to row a canoe with a spoon. Of course, if you don't put anything in the ship power consumption goes way down and you eventually get to the point where you have a boat like what they're using. But what business that makes money by moving lots of goods from A to B on a schedule is going to build a fleet of boats that can't carry anything and go very slowly? Maybe recreational boaters, but I don't see it so much for the commercial shipping industry.

    I do wish them fair winds and following seas for their crossing, and hope that they are indeed correct that "Solar energy will be the future of navigation techniques" if for no other reason than we need to, as a society, start reducing out carbon footprint. As an engineer (a marine engineer, at that), though, I see a very long a tortuous path ahead.
    • by Glonoinha (587375)
      What if they apply the things they learn to 'lighter than air' ships, aka really big blimps. The upper third of those things would make incredible solar arrays given the appropriate cells were light enough, no need for batteries if they spend most of their time a thousand feet in the air (or higher), could use electric motors to propel themselves, much less friction to overcome than big boats, and if large enough could have fairly large payloads. I think there was reference to doing something like this in
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)
        About 10 years ago, there was a company in Europe (France, I believe) trying to make that happen. They built a huge hanger, build a half-size prototype zeppelin... then ran out of money and went out of business. The hanger was remodeled to be a jungle theme park, I believe.

        It's still a good idea, though. A decent-sized zeppelin could haul 2-4 cargo containers at 40+ MPH, and there's no need for a crew... these are simple enough to just pop in a computer and GPS and let them go. Pity the company that was
    • Just using a crude area approximation for the ship's dimensions and, say, 33% efficiency for solar cells you would get about 1630 kW of power, or about 2180 horsepower. 2180 horsepower won't even move a ship that size fast enough to maintain steerage.

      Thats why you build the ships with two or three hulls, as the design on their website displays, and stretch your solar panel sheet over the top. Same small drag, drastically increased surface area.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Well, they could increase the surface area by building vertical fins. And while they're doing that, they could shape the fins in order to act as aerofoils. And then they could forget about the stupid, expensive, resource-intensive and inefficient solar cells, and just sail the damn boat.
  • the big picture (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PopeJM (956574)
    I don't think anyone is getting the big picture. This is more of a move towards powering larger and larger vessels up to the size of today's fuel-burning ships. I don't think they're going "lol, who needs wind guys, am I right?" I think they realize as you must that it's rather impossible to make modern day ferries and passenger liners that don't burn fuel with current research. Hey maybe it's even possible to add to the technology of sails so much that you could make faster boats that use sails. Who knows?
  • 4 8 15 16 23 42
  • This boat will achieve its 7,000-mile trip [...] without burning a single gallon of fuel.

    Unless you consider the fuel required to manufacture the solar cells, including the vast amount of electricity consumed during manufacturing and refining of materials which mostly comes from burning coal and the transportation of raw materials and intermediate products over long distances using oil fuel.

    Not too long ago it was more than the usable energy the cell could produce over its entire lifetime. It's no longer t
    • by DrXym (126579)
      Unless you consider the fuel required to manufacture the solar cells, including the vast amount of electricity consumed during manufacturing and refining of materials which mostly comes from burning coal and the transportation of raw materials and intermediate products over long distances using oil fuel.

      What about the vast amount of electricity consumed during manufacturing and refining of an engine block? Or for that matter, sails, rigging and their mast? How much energy does it take to produce an alumin

  • I'm surprised nobody's actually done the 9-line spreadsheet to calculate this out.

    Let's assume, from the picture, they have a full 14 by say 5 meters of solar cells. If you do the math, starting from the number of watts of sun per square meter, the typical cell efficiency (when new and clean), the amount of sunlight, hmmm, the numbers are really dismal.

    I get about 0.6 HORSEPOWER average over 24 hrs, 2.2 PEAK at noon. Unlikely to be able to budge the craft against even a light headwind or current.

    • by infolib (618234)
      Let's see:

      14x5 = 90 m^2. Efficiency 10% gives 9 m^2 effective. Solar influx is around 1kW/M^2. So this gives something like 9 kW peak, equating to about 12 hp.

      I think you should recheck your formulas. And I've got this wild idea that the engineers behind the boat have actually thought about what they're doing.
      • >14x5 = 90 m^2. Efficiency 10% gives 9 m^2 effective. Solar influx is around 1kW/M^2. So this gives something like 9 kW peak, equating to about 12 hp.

        Okay, let's do the math, all of it.

        9KW is what you get when the sun is (1) Above the horizon. (2) Not obscured by clouds (3) directly overhead.

        Looking at the design, the panel doesnt look steerable, as that would form a solid sail against the wind. It seems to have to lie flat. So it's only going to give 12hp at a small time around local noon, at

  • Did anyone else think of the solaris?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mysterious_cities_of_ gold [wikipedia.org]

    I can't wait until they work on the giant condor - all that gold could cost a little more than this $1/2 Million though...

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