Swiss Solar Boat Sets Speed Record For Transatlantic Crossing

Swiss Solar BoatSwitzerland’s solar yacht, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, set a new speed record for crossing the Atlantic when it sailed from Las Palmas, Spain to St. Martin’s island in the French West Indies in 22 days, beating its own record of 26 days for the crossing last year.

The boat’s captain credited major maintenance repairs, particularly to its propulsion system, for improving the boat’s performance. The boat’s energy consumption had to be carefully managed to maintain optimal speed while aiming for the record. When the crew ran into cloudy weather, it altered the route and ended up traveling slightly longer to avoid winds and swells.

PlanetSolar will arrive at US shores this June and will dock at Miami, Boston and New York, where it will educate the public on the scope of solar power. The $19 million, 5,500-sq-foot boat covered in photovoltaic panels was built in Kiel, Germany and launched in 2010 and set 5 world records last year, for the longest journey and fastest crossing of the Atlantic and the South China Sea.

The boat is built of lightweight carbon, weighs 89 metric tons and has a top speed of 14 knots. It has an installed power of 93.5 kW and 18.8 percent solar panel efficiency.

The solar yacht’s progress can be tracked much like another Swiss project, the Solar Impulse, a solar powered airplane that flew from the San Francisco Bay Area to Phoenix and is now en route to Dallas. The Solar Impulse’s goal is to boost public enthusiasm for cleaner jet fuel.

In the same vein, a future passenger ferry that will carry 1,500 passengers between Denmark, Germany and Sweden will be powered by solar, fuel cell, batteries and wind power. The emission-free ferry will cost 25 percent more than conventional ferries.

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