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Solar-powered catamaran goes around the world in 584 days

May 04, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • The solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar crosses the finish line of its trip around the world at the Hercule Harbor in Monaco.
The solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar crosses the finish line of its… (Laurent Gillieron / Associated…)

In the spring of 2004 Raphael Domjan, a Swiss electrical engineer, conceived of a borderline insane idea -- to travel around the world aboard a ship powered entirely by solar energy.

It would be an adventure and a statement. If he could do it, he would prove to the world that there are other alternatives to powering sea travel besides fossil fuels and wind. It would also demonstrate just what solar power is capable of.

In 2008 he formed a partnership with German entrepreneur Immo Stroeher, who helped provide the funds to make this idea possible.

And now, eight years later, Domjan's dream is a reality: On Friday, the solar-powered MS Turanor PlanetSolar catamaran pulled into port in Monaco after completing a 37,294-mile journey around the world.

"We have shown that we have the technologies as well as the knowledge to become sustainable and safeguard our blue planet," Domjan said in a statement.

The ship, designed by New Zealander Craig Loomes, is made of a durable lightweight carbon material and is covered with 38,000 solar cells that feed power to six blocks of lithium-ion batteries.

"Each new sunrise provides the catamaran with the light needed to continue its journey," the PlanetSolar team wrote on its website.

It took the 115-foot boat 584 days -- roughly 19 month -- to make it all around the world. That is admittedly not a super-fast pace.

But there were stops along the way to promote solar power and even an encounter with pirates. There was also some waiting for the sun to come up to power those lithium batteries.

Now that the Domjan has completed his mission, he and the team at PlanetSolar will have to figure out what do with the ship.

"We are considering renting out the boat for scientific or commercial uses or even selling it," Stroeher told Wired. "We are open for ideas and in talks with interested parties -- from the use as a 'green' luxury yacht to scientific usages and the utilization as the world’s largest mobile solar power battery, everything is possible."

Go green!

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