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World’s largest solar boat docks in Paris

© AFP

Video by James ANDRE

Text by Dhananjay KHADILKAR

Latest update : 2013-09-13

The world’s largest solar-powered boat is on display in Paris after completing a transatlantic voyage that ended on the banks of the Seine.

Paris is not new to extreme machines. The world throngs to the French capital every year to be wowed by the cutting-edge technology in either automobiles, at the Paris Motor Show, or aircrafts, at the Paris Air Show. This week, the world’s largest solar-powered boat eased into the Seine, ending its transatlantic voyage.

Docked at the quay in front of Paris’ western Parc André Citroën, the Turanor PlanetSolar catamaran, whose body is made of carbon fibre, exemplifies state-of-the-art solar-powered engineering.

View from the deck. © Dhananjay Khadilkar

The boat has already racked up some impressive credentials after circumnavigating the globe and breaking the record for a transatlantic journey by a solar-powered vessel. But this time, it also served as an experimental station that enabled scientists from the University of Geneva to conduct atmospheric and oceanic studies in the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean.

“It was a pleasure conducting experiments on this unique vessel. The advantage of this boat is that because of zero emissions, we were able to conduct studies on aerosols without any hindrance,” said Anh-Dao Le, one of the scientists onboard.

The zero emission is the result of the 29,124 photovoltaic cells that power this 35 metres long, 23 metres wide and 6.30 meters high catamaran. The solar cells, which span 512 square metres of the deck area, charge 8.5 tons of lithium-ion batteries which in turn power the two propellers. The boat, which can accommodate nine people (5 crew members and 4 scientists), has a maximum speed of 14 knots, with an average speed of 5 knots.

According to Planetsolar’s head of communications, Rachel Bros de Puechredon, who was part of the crew on this transatlantic voyage, the boat has demonstrated not only the long-term feasibility of solar energy on ocean journeys but the vessel’s capabilities as a scientific tool.

“Besides the solar power demonstration, we wanted a second life for it, the kind of which was manifested in this scientific expedition,” she said.

Inside the Turanor PlanetSolar. © Dhananjay Khadilkar

The boat’s unique capabilities were not only in its design, construction and use of alternative energy, but also in its navigation.

“Unlike conventional vessels, the top priority while navigating this boat is the optimisation of energy depending on the sun, wind and water currents,” Bros de Puechredon said.

Although entirely powered by solar energy, the boat does carry an emergency generator in case of extreme weather.

“We had to use the generator in order to escape Hurricane Andrea in June,” Bros de Puechredon recalled.

The Turanor PlanetSolare will be docked at the Parc Andre Citroen until September 15.

Date created : 2013-09-13

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