This Futuristic Boat Just Circumnavigated the Globe on Solar Power

By Alexis C. Madrigal

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.

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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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/05/this-futuristic-boat-just-circumnavigated-the-globe-on-solar-power/256694/