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By Samuel R. Avro on Mar 18, 2009 with no responses

Solar Powered Ship to Travel the World in 120 Days

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In an effort to promote alternative energy for ships, Swiss and German engineers are building a solar-powered catamaran that will try to circumnavigate the globe in a speedy four months beginning in 2010.

PlanetSolar, instead of running on fossil fuels or wind, will collect its power from a from a 470 square meter solar array. The power will then be used to charge a large lithium-ion battery pack that will drive the ship’s engines.

According to a U.N. study, 4.5 percent of greenhouse gases can be attributed to shipping, or over a billion tons of carbon dioxide – double that of aviation.

The panels on the ship will make it the world’s largest mobile solar array, according to the group, and the lithium-ion pack will be one of the world’s biggest moving lithium packs.

“During our round-the-world attempt, we will have to manage whatever energy nature gives us,” explains the President of Planet Solar, Raphaël Domjan, who will also be the boat’s skipper. “We will have to constantly optimize our route and speed in line with the available sunshine and the medium-range weather forecast. No one has ever undertaken such a task.”

If it succeeds, it will spawn technological developments in many fields, such as the manufacture of composite materials and structures or the generation and storage of photovoltaic energy (or electricity), the company says.

The completed ship will measure 31 meters long and 15 meters wide and 35 meters wide and 23 meters long with its solar flaps fully unfurled. It will weigh 60 tons and later versions will tip in at 85 tons. The batteries will also mean that it can power ahead in a wider variety of weather conditions.

The ship will travel at an average speed of 18.5 km/h, or just under 11.5 mph.

The first-ever solar-powered circumnavigation of the globe will set many new records and worldwide firsts: the first solar-powered round-the-world journey by any means of transport, the first solar-powered crossing of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the first circumnavigation by a solar-powered boat and the record for crossing the Atlantic.