Green transportation as a whole covers a wide range of transportation concepts. Green vehicles powered by electricity or hydrogen take much of the media’s focus while others prefer to look at the changes being made to public transit around the globe. The changes to the aviation industry have also taken a great deal of attention in the last week or so with Lufthansa’s announcement about their decision to begin running a biofuel powered plane. However, one area of green transportation that doesn’t seem to get enough attention is seaborne green projects.
A team of researchers over at PlanetSolar have decided to take the idea of green transportation and apply it to the sea when they built a solar powered catamaran that is meant to sail around the world. Called the TÛRANOR, a name pulled from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings meaning “the power of the sun”, the solar powered vessel is the $17.5 million realization of a team of researchers who wished to see how far solar energy could be pushed. The TÛRANOR runs entirely on electricity that is generated from over 38,000 photovoltaic solar cells that is in turn stored in a giant lithium ion battery allowing the vessel to essentially power itself forever on the sunlight alone. The craft itself is roughly thirty one meters long and is piloted by a six man crew while having the capacity to hold around forty crew members at any given time. The vessel is also equipped with fold out flaps that allow it to increase the amount of solar cells that can be exposed to the sun at any given time and increasing the size of the ship. According to PlanetSolar, the TÛRANOR is the largest solar powered sea-faring vessel in the world.
Currently, the TÛRANOR is on a trip to circumnavigate the globe in hopes of spreading the word for how successful green transportation can be while also becoming the first solar powered vessel to achieve such a goal. The PlanetSolar team has specifically chosen certain areas of the world to stop over in so that they can spread the word about the effectiveness of solar power. They are also intending on using the TÛRANOR as a way of meeting with what PlanetSolar calls leading minds in the solar energy field in order to have a round table discussion about solar power.
The TÛRANOR was launched earlier this year on March 31st in Monaco and is currently working on moving down the Mexican coast. Though the sun may not always shine down on the TÛRANOR, the lithium ion battery does allow up to three days of travel without the collection of solar energy. With a top speed of only around eight knots, the trip has taken a great deal of time and is expected to take much more, though PlanetSolar says that the speed of the mission is not the point of the trip. Instead, they are hoping that by the time they finish their trip they will have spread the concept of solar energy far enough around the world to make a difference.
Article by Richard Cooke, appearing courtesy Justmeans.