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Solar Sailor -- a hybrid solar / wind boat
Jeremy Faludi, 5 Jan 05

We've mentioned the possible return of sailing ships for greener shipping, but here's a new take on boating: the Solar Sailor, a passenger boat that can be powered by solar panels, and whose movable wing-like solar panels can also act as sails. The craft can run on wind, sun, battery, or diesel, or any combination of them all. And the best part is, it's not vaporware. It was first showcased at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and according to the Australian government's Department of Environment and Heritage, "It is the first vessel to be efficiently fueled by the dual energies of the wind and sun and is now operating commercially on Sydney Harbour."

Although the boat cost three million Aussie dollars to make--roughly 20% above the status-quo--"the company is confident that new technologies and the economics of scale will diminish this margin considerably over the next decade. However, even at current prices, depending on the degree of usage, a purchaser could expect to recoup this differential within five years through fuel savings." (And remember a five-year payback time is something like a 20% return on investment--much more profitable than the stock market, for most people.) And, of course, "In addition to reducing noise, air and water pollution from diesel exhaust, the data indicates that Solar Sailor will save 250,000 litres of diesel fuel consumed per vessel annum... an annual saving of 670 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per vessel." says "they also under scrutiny for duty as urban ferries, where they would use 50% less fuel". The inability to run 100% off the sun and wind when operating as a ferry is due to the application's speed requirements--the craft can only do 12-14 knots maximum estimate without also using battery/diesel hybrid assist; but cutting fuel usage in half is still a huge and admirable achievement. It's better than today's best hybrid cars do.

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Just to be pedantic, a payback of 5 years is just less than 15% per annum (compounded). But still better than an average stock market year :)

-- John

Posted by: John Norris on 5 Jan 05

Is it just me or do those panels look like a good wind would just rip em off?

Posted by: wintermane on 6 Jan 05

Thanks for the ROI correction, John.

Wintermans, if you read the company's site (or the BBC article, I think) you'll see that the sails fold down flat in winds over 30 or 35 knots, to avoid being broken or ripped off the boat.

Posted by: Jer on 6 Jan 05

Ah good. Still 35 knot winds are rather common arnt they? Id rather have a ship that could handle wider wind ranges then have one that can go fast in light winds only.

Posted by: wintermane on 6 Jan 05



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