This Futuristic Boat Just Circumnavigated the Globe on Solar Power

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A pioneering ship proves a point about the possibilities of renewable energy.

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For the past 19 months, the Turanor PlanetSolar has been on a voyage around the world powered only by 38,000 SunPower solar cells. On May 4, the boat will return to Monaco, completing a trip that it began in September of 2010. The 537 square meters of solar panels power six banks of lithium-ion batteries. On a good day towards the end of the trip, they could charge up the batteries by a full 50 percent. On a bad day, they might only get 10 percent more juice before dusk.

Dispatches about Planet Earth See full coverage

The trip was not intended to prove that solar-powered ships are ready for the commercial primetime, but like many first-time journeys, to prove to future engineers that the feat could be accomplished and now need only to be optimized. Perhaps they also provided new (and green!) inspiration for a sequel to Kevin Costner's Waterworld.

The boat's crew recorded the trip in impressive detail, blogging and posting photos all along the way. Their adventures were funded primarily by the Swiss watchmaker, Candino, and the German energy company, Immosolar.

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All images: Turanor PlanetSolar.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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