Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hybrid solar photovoltaic - wind system is applicable to power boats

Last night while I was surfing on the internet, I found a website which displayed a picture of a boat that is powered by sunlight. It is called Solar Sailor. It is the proud of Australia, especially the city of Sydney. It features a futuristic design with a catamaran twin-hull form and solar panels that also function as "sails". The catamaran has got eight solar panels mounted on top of its roof. The panels can be adjusted to harness both the sun and the wind. When adjusted to near vertical positions, the panels will function as sails. Photovoltaic panels absorbs solar energy and convert it to electricity. The electricity is then used to drive electric motors that propel the boat.
Back-up batteries are needed to store the electrical energy and can be fully charged in four hours. During the 2000 Sydney Olympic games, the boat attracted worldwide attention both from the mass-media and sports' fans who went to attend the games.
In general, one hull design boat has high frictional and wave resistance. To minimize it, the designers of the boat applied a twin-hull type called catamaran that reduce the block coefficient of the watercraft. This kind of design makes the deck area larger and more stable. As passenger ferry and hospitality vessel, the boat can carry 110 passengers, and is operated by two crews. Solar Sailor is the word's largest solar vessel of her era. It is also the first commercial marine vessel which has been totally powered by a combination of renewable energy i.e. the sun and the wind.
It is also important to see that the boat does not emit fumes, noise, and does not pollute sea water. Since the boat is an environmentally friendly marine vehicle, it can enter various restricted waterways which are sensitive.
The introduction of solar boat into the world market opens more possibilites for the application of such hybrid system as photovoltaic - wind energy in many other boats and ships. Unfortunately, the cost of producing highly efficient mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells is still high. Such investment is worth it if we take into account the environmental impacts that solar boat brings. It does not need fossil fuel so it will not emit toxic gases which significantly contribute to air and water pollution as well as global warming. Such savings in fuel is very important in todays situation when the soaring price of fossil fuel has reached 140 dollars/ barrel as of June 2008. by Charles Roring