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Solar Boat To Cross the Atlantic

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the sun-and-sea dept.


Roland Piquepaille writes, "A group from Switzerland will soon attempt the first Atlantic crossing in a solar-powered boat. This ship, named SUN21, is a 14-meter-long catamaran able to sleep 5 or 6 persons. The goal is to leave Seville, Spain, in December 2006 and to reach ports in Florida and New York in the spring of 2007. This boat will achieve its 7,000-mile trip at a speed of 5-6 knots, about the speed of a sailing yacht, by using photovoltaic cells and without burning a single gallon of fuel. The consortium behind this project wants to demonstrate that the time has come for solar boats." The boat will cost about $556,000 to build and it will be for sale at some point after its crossing.

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Been Done Already (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126608)

Every sailing vessel is basically a solar powered boat. Been doing that for eons. Why change now?

Catboats with sails makes a very reliable clip night and day with little or no fancy technology - and can easily be mated up to such a solar-panel system for an added kick and redundancy...

$500k is hardly mainstream (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126920)

I can't see $500k price tags being mainstream fro a while.

I'd have serious concerns about reliability etc. too. Consider that many sailing adventures end up with broken masts and similar misfortunes that people are able to recover from because they're using ancient technology. They can put together something that sails from broken masts and torn sails etc and limp in to port. Fixing up broken PV is probably not something you can just do armed with a hammer, saw and a knife.

Re:$500k is hardly mainstream (2, Interesting)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127112)

. . .people are able to recover from because they're using ancient technology.

When I can I even like to avoid winches and wire rigging. Ropes, block and tackle may fail slightly more often, but they're easier to handle and easier to create jury rigs out of when the shit hits the sails.

Wire's for racers and dock sailors. Quite frankly, if you really need wire just to hold your mast up you've fucked up your engineering.

PV's good for a bit of luxury now and again, but I would never ever bet my life at sea on it.


Re:$500k is hardly mainstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16127587)

14 metres... 42 feet... quite typically costs 400 - 500k. Mainstream for Thurston Howell "teh thurd" .... and search new power or sail and you'll see what I mean. Private boating will Never be cheap,
but perhaps it could have a lower environmental impact.

When I pay my fuel bill (235 gallon tank), I wish I had a sailboat. However, when it's Sunday afternoon and I'm 60 miles from home, I'm glad I don't. Perhaps when I retire, I can afford to go 7 or 8 knots. For now, I prefer to cruise around 30.
When I see a solar / electric that will go at least 25 knots ( or 27 mph if you prefer) for at least 100 miles,I'll be first in line with my checkbook

Re:Been Done Already (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127125)

Why change now?

"The boat will cost about $556,000 to build and it will be for sale at some point after its crossing."

Follow the money.


Solar power and wind power aren't the same (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127273)

Every sailing vessel is basically a solar powered boat.

If you're going to claim wind power is the same as solar power you may as well call gasoline engines solar powered too: In each case the energy originally came from the sun. In reality, it is useful to make the distinction between all of these because each power source requires different methods to use and has different downsides. Even the environmental consequences of wind and solar voltaic are different if you consider the manufacturing process.

Re:Been Done Already (2)

malsdavis (542216) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127447)

"Every sailing vessel is basically a solar powered boat. Been doing that for eons. Why change now?"

They're not changing away from sailing vessels now, the whole industry changed over 100 years ago. They are using a solar-powered, propellor driven vessel which - if the tachnology advances - will have many quite obvious advantages over traditional sailing vessels.

why? (1)

llZENll (545605) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126611)

Why would you want to do this rather than using wind power and ocean currents?

Re:why? (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126623)

Because wind and currents don't always go in the direction you might want them to?

Re:why? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126693)

I wonder if a solar-powered engine will be able to overcome adverse wind and currents?

Make a huge trimaran, and sure! (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126729)

With a trimaran design, one could make a low displacement ship with a huge deck area. Of course, there's always the cloudy day to mess things up, but with enough batteries on cuold get through a day or two. Really though, this isn't about efficiency, it's more of a "Look what we can do." kind of thing, and a good starting point for research into marine solar applications. How much does salt water effect common types of solar panels? What's the most efficient type of motor for this application? What's the best way to mount solar panels onto a rolling and pitching surface? These are all questions that might be answered by a program such as this.

Re:why? (3, Insightful)

Millenniumman (924859) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126798)

Why does that matter? Sailboats can go in any direction other than straight into the wind. They aren't pushed forward by it.

Re:why? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126853)

I know that. But solar powered boats can go in any direction with the same efficiency. Sailboats for the most part do best on a broad reach. And solar can power batteries for when there's no sun. I've never seen a wind battery for when there's no wind.

Re:why? (1)

Millenniumman (924859) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126887)

Even with batteries, the overall speed for this ship isn't better than a far cheaper sailboat. The ocean is generally windy, but it is only sunny during the day, and batteries are extremely inefficient and heavy.

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16127040)


Re:why? (2, Informative)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127175)

Furthermore, while being becalmed is annoying, diesel will get you out of it nearly as well as electric (or you can wait it out). Near a storm, however, you need serious engine power and can be in overcast weather for weeks. Finally, sometimes 5 knots simply won't cut it; if that's the best this motor can do it is unlikely to get beyond hobbyists.

Re:why? (1)

dondelelcaro (81997) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127553)

But solar powered boats can go in any direction with the same efficiency.

They're still subject to the waves and currents just like any other boat... and there are many places where the currents exceed 5 knots.

Sailboats for the most part do best on a broad reach.

While this is true for almost every boat, many high performance boats exceed windspeed when they are on a broad reach. Even for cruisers, it's not unusual to do 70-90% of windspeed, even upwind. [In normal trade conditions, that generally means 9-15 knots.]

And solar can power batteries for when there's no sun. I've never seen a wind battery for when there's no wind.

There are only a few places in the oceans where there is consistently no wind (the doldrums [] ). If you're a marginally competent navigator and weatherman, you can pretty much tell where there's going to be sufficient wind on the ocean, and where there isn't. [And given the far superiour speed of modern sailboats, even if you are becalmed half the time, you'll probably still beat the solar powered boat.]

Re:why? (4, Insightful)

lowfatsugar (972297) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127755)

1. Effectively, sailboats can go "straight into the wind" by zigzagging (tacking). Unfortunately, this doesn't work so well in narrow channels (e.g. rivers). In this regard, the solar ship would have an edge, particularly on heavily used rivers.

2. As many people here have pointed out, sailboats have been around for a very long time, meaning that we've had a lot of time to improve their design and construction. If the first generation of a solar ship can be competitive with current generation sailboats, I think that this bodes well for the solar ship in the long haul.

3. Owing to the enormous forces involved in propelling a large ship using wind, the design, construction and operation of sailing vessels can be quite expensive. Half a million for a boat that can cross the Atlantic doesn't seem so bad, especially for a first-generation custom-built effort. With large scale production, I would expect to see prices come down.

4. The masts, sails and standing rigging of a sailing vessel seem incompatible with modern top-loading cargo facilities, whereas I can imagine that a solar boat could be designed for compatibility with existing port equipment.

5. Although batteries weigh a lot, so does fuel. And, unlike cars and trucks driving cross-country, ships crossing an ocean don't have the luxury of refueling, so they have to carry it all with them. On a solar-powered ship, you just need enough battery capacity to get you through cloudy patches.

I'm not 100% convinced it'll work, but the idea has merit.

Re:why? (2, Insightful)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126629)

Because they can. :)

Re:why? (1)

jo7hs2 (884069) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126663)

Because winds are unpredicatable and currents only go certain places. It is still a silly idea to make solar the sole source of power, but sails combined with a solar electric motor would be an excellent combination of both worlds. I'd still want a diesel backup, just in case, but you could use biodiesel...

Re:why? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127240)

So you're going to have a sailboat with three completely separate sources of power? Seems pretty inefficient, and the solar would seem to be the dead weight.

Re:why? (1)

ZakuSage (874456) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126692)

Because it's expensive, obviously.

To show that it can be done on solar alone (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126714)

Once that's established a solar/convenional Sail hybrid is the logical next step.

It's a proof of technology, not a planned usurper to sail power, at least that's how I see it.

Won't work on monohulls (1)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127208)

BIG problem here: sails tend to block a lot of sunlight. Even relatively clear sails will probably cut down on insolation significantly, especially if they're relatively heavy-duty (as moving a 46' boat would suggest). Also, monohulls need keels, which add tremendously to their weight. There goes your motoring performance.

A sailing catamaran might be able to do this, however; if the motors can be used to charge the batteries while under sail, the charging issue goes away (many cruising boats that use propellor shafts will attach a generator to the shaft and leave the engine in neutral to charge the batteries while sailing). I can see myself buying a boat like that... when I find myself with a million dollars to spend... (a new 45' sailing catamaran can cost over half a million easily).

Re:Won't work on monohulls (2, Interesting)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127230)

What if the sails themselves were solar panels?

What if solar and sail were not concurrent? (solar for sunny days and no wind)

What if the solar panels primary purpose was to store energy to run on-board systems and for docking?

There are many iterations here, but it's an idea worth pursuit. (I think)

hybrid (1)

drDugan (219551) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127234)

maybe someday we can get the sail to BE the solar cell

Re:why? (2, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127210)

It's a Roland Pigpail article. It's delusional. No need to worry.

Re:why? (1)

Ed Thomson (704721) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127396)

Why would you want to do this rather than using wind power and ocean currents?

If they used wind and ocean currents they would not have got the publicity and the article on slashdot.

Wow (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126613)

Finally, an alternative to the environmentally dangerous effects of the sail.

Re:Wow (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126665)

I'm all for technology where technology is needed, but I hate it when people try to put technology where it doesn't belong. It's one thing to do this as an experiment, to show that it can be done, it's another thing to say that we are now at the point where we should be using solar boats regularly. It's like those washing machines with the 600 different washing modes. Nobody really needs all that, we only need maybe 5 or 6. There's no point to building stuff like this, and it only adds more points of failure by making things more complicated than they need to be. We have plenty of forms of water transport that are zero emissions (sails, paddles, nuclear (which is low emission, and low waste)), we don't need to be using environmentally unfriendly solar panels to power boats.

Re:Wow (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126804)

Sails ships are fairly slow in crossing the Atlantic. Maybe this will be a faster way with propellers. Sails takes months to cross, prop boats take days.

Re:Wow (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126882)

At 5-6 knots this boat will be passed by even the slowest sail boat that can safely cross the atlantic today.

sailboats themselves use solar, and sometimes even a mini wind turbine to keep their electronic systems charged while saving gas for real emergencies.

Re:Wow (1)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127231)

30 days is a glacial amount of time for crossing the Atlantic. Many sailboats (which can cruise at speeds of 7 knots or higher) can do it in 2-3 weeks. A comparably priced cruising powerboat might make it in 10-15 days. "Months" is purely ridiculous... though this boat is so slow it might well take a (single) month...

Re:Wow (2, Interesting)

Millenniumman (924859) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126807)

Are you honestly implying that solar panels are worse for the environment than nuclear power plants? Are you willing to keep nuclear waste in you garage for thousands of years?

Re:Wow (1)

zrobotics (760688) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126980)

No, what he is implying is that solar technology is more inefficient and expensive than traditional wind-powered vessels. Nuclear is, in this instance, a better option (from a preformance standpoint) since it works all the time at the same efficiency, without resorting to batteries. If it is stormy for an extended period of time (common on the open ocean) the solar panels will be operating at greatly reduced efficiency, whereas a nuclear-powered vessel would operate at equal efficiency as in sunny, calm conditions. In my eyes, this 'experiment' is a waste of (federal?) grant money that would be better spent on other things-i.e. improving solar efficiency so the technology becomes a viable alternative to coal-fired power plants.

Re:Wow (1)

meckardt (113120) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127154)

During the operational life of solar cells, and of nuclear power plants, the environmental effects of each type of energy production are fairly insignificant. The environmental costs of each must be based on the production costs of the solar cells, and of the nuclear fuel, and the disposal costs of the nuclear fuel AND the disposal of broken solar cells (and the chemicals solar cells are toxic too).

If you want to evaluate the relative environmental costs of various power generation methods, you have to include everything. If you want to get picky about it, you can include the cost of factories, transportation, etc, but those are probably comparable for most.

Re:Wow (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127218)

Sounds to me like it is NOT time for solar powered boats to make their debut since they're slower and more complicated than wind powered boats and cost a half million dollars.

Re:Wow (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127315)

Not unlike electric cars of only a few years ago.
It's a prototype, first generation stuff just to prove the concept.

They get this whole 'electric boat' concept worked out and they will streamline the process, build on the knowledge they get during the first few generations and eventually they will reshape the hull into a more efficient shape (perhaps take clues from large sea-borne mammals like the dolphin or whale), establish a more effective way to create electricity (such as perhaps an onboard diesel generator with massive arrays of batteries to hold the electricity ... or maybe even self contained little mini nuclear reactors) and once the need to use sunlight is removed they could even make them water-tight from all directions, smooth out the shapes some and add a little ballast to let the ship ride lower in the water (to minimize the effects of surface weather / waves) - possibly even under the water. It could revolutionize the way we interact with the ocean.

Naw, that would never work.

Re:Wow (2, Insightful)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127341)

Experimental prototypes and test beds sure. That doesn't justify "the consortium behind this project wants to demonstrate that the time has come for solar boats." Just like the guy who flew across the English channel by pedaling. It was cool and it demonstrated some advanced aeronautical design but he didn't claim that the time has come for pedal powered flight.

Re:Wow (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127445)

I agree, a single instance does not make a trend.

That said, it is still first generation, proof of concept. With any luck we (as in we 'the world') will take advantage of all of the findings they uncover on their eight month 'journey of discovery' - doing things that people already do, but doing them from a completely different perspective ... can often point out plenty of inefficiencies that we have learned to accept or work around, and if they find a way to fix any of these (because they approached the problem from a different direction) then all the different boating types will benefit.

In the 'pedal powered flight' slant - what if that guy stumbled across the whole 'winglets increase lift by doing something completely different with the wing-tip vortexes (vorticii?)' thing while trying to make his pedal powered plane more efficient, studying wing design? He didn't, but if he had and the rest of the aeronautical world adopted it - it wouldn't have been a breakthrough in pedal powered flight, but certainly a breakthrough that benefits the entire industry.

Think hull design (getting one more knot out of a more efficient hull design would be worth 20% faster ship), more slippery hull materials, possibly even organic (ditto on the speed benefits), maybe some sort of massive chemical battery using a copper hull and a lead or zinc hull with salt water doing some chemical reaction (yea, this one is a bit far fetched, but still) ... never know when you are going to discover something completely unrelated, yet incredibly cool (ie, the history of Velcro)

Re:Wow (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127469)

I'm not disagreeing that these things aren't worth doing. Even if the pedal powered flight guy didn't discover winglets, he did discover or cause the discovery of other things.

The "it's time for solar powered boats" thing is hype though. Unnecessary hype.

Re:Wow (3, Informative)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126829)

Finally, an alternative to the environmentally dangerous effects of the sail.

The North Atlantic is one of the most hostile environments on earth

---and they plan to make the crossing in January on solar power at a speed of 5 knots?

This is nuts.

No fuel! Wow! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126614)

By the way, how much fuel do sails or rowing use?

How useful! (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126615)

The performance and fuel-efficiency of sails, at a price that's a mere order of magnitude higher! Sure, it might seem pointless now, but when our reserves of fossil sails are exhausted, these guys are going to have the last laugh.

Re:How useful! (2, Funny)

sjs132 (631745) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127114)

But... If Fossil fuels runout, you can't make enough energy needed to produce mass quantities of solar panels and fiber glass.. But I could still fell a tree, build a sail boat and eventually make a sail.

So, Solar loses, wind wins!

Good ol' `wind'. Nothin' beats that...

Re:How useful! (0)

Kaeles (971982) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127430)

Until we clog up all the wind, you know.
Its like the internet, except the tubes are bigger.

Roland Piquepaille (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126639)

Another Roland Piquepaille submission. I guess it's not enough that Slashdot wants to post troll articles,dupes, and slashvertisments, they have to top the week off with another STUPID Roland spam. I sure hope whatever deal y'all have cut with Roland is worth the $ for wasting our god damn time.

Correct me if I'm wrong... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126641)

...but haven't people been crossing the Atlantic in boats powered (indirectly) by the sun, without burning a single gallon of fuel, for around 514 years now?

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Insightful)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127108)

Yes, but this boat will (apparently) have no sails. It's sort of a 'look at me, no hands' exercise carried forward to spending a 1/2 million dollars to say so.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Informative)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127349)

Actually half a million isn't unreasonable for a brand new 46' Trans-Atlantic capable powerboat / sailboat.
Price out a nice new Sea Ray Sundancer, last I checked their Sundancer 460 (roughly 46' of real space, like 51' tip to tip) model runs between half and three quarters of a Meg.

That said, I like the earlier idea of making the sails out of solar collector material (memories of Tron come to mind) and using that juice to fill up the batteries, run those the massive electric motors like this thing does.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Insightful)

rossdee (243626) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127277)

Try about 1000 years, Columbus wasn't the 1st, The vikings used sailing ships too.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Funny)

Peyna (14792) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127520)

But on TV, the Vikings row their boats.

But how much oil... (5, Insightful)

mr_stinky_britches (926212) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126644)

But how much oil did it take to make the solar cells?

Re:But how much oil... (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126705)

How much oil did it take for you to submit that comment? How much oil is it taking me to submit this comment. You can't discount the use of a technology just because the industries that support the technology aren't up to snuff. It's completely possible to produce solar panels without oil, and we shouldn't not use them because it currently requires industries that use oil in one way or another. I mean, at that rate, you might as well discount wood boats, because unless you're picking up the wood off the ground and tying it together with some hemp rope you managed to make yourself, then you're probably using a lot of oil in the process.

Re:But how much oil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126862)

Why Hay Bee Tee. Aidge Ah Enn Dee.

Re:But how much oil... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126747)

3.82798 liters.

Anything else you need to know?

The economics always prove it (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127146)

But how much oil did it take to make the solar cells?

Certainly no more than some percentage of its wholesale cost (cost of manufacturing includes cost of materials, energy, labor, and lots of other things like marketing, licensing fees, etc.) Panels usually pay back their RETAIL cost in a few years (depends on the area you are in, if you use a tracking mount which grossly increases their daily output, etc.) There's a substanial net gain, since they easily last another decade past their break-even point.

People whine about solar panel efficiency, but guess what? The largest power plants around are at most 30-35% thermally efficient, and that's before you figure plant-to-home transmission losses.

Wikipedia has a nice article [] , complete with charts, showing cost per kWhr and such.

Re:But how much oil... (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127457)

But how much oil did it take to make the solar cells?
Quite a lot - but that same really big chunk of zone refined silicon will provide a lot of other solar cells and probably a few thousand CPUs and other bits of electronics, so per unit it isn't much at all.

The point that was entirely missed by the parent poster is that you don't have to take a lot of oil with you when you have the solar cells.

Sails are so inefficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126666)

With the current price of wind, why not use cheap solar power and all the equipment that comes with it? A sheet of cloth is so expensive! Oh hold on, these guys got it the wrong way round!!! What a waste of time!

I know this whole story is filled with comments like the above, but I really hope the sailors read this slashdot story and realise they've wasted both time and money to prove nothing.

Honey, where's the spare paddle? (2, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126689)

What if the sun doesn't shine at all during the journey? After all, there's a lot of funky weather patterns going on these days.

Re:Honey, where's the spare paddle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16127025)

Actually, even on completely overcast days a solar cell will still put out 85 - 90 percent of its full-sun rating...

But the important question is ... (1)

xmas2003 (739875) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126695)

Will it run (embedded) Linux to control the solar cells, battery, motor, etc.?

Re:But the important question is ... (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126787)

That takes the fun out of sailing a boat, in the first place. Sorry, some things are better left to the devices of man instead of machine.

Really Alternative Fuel? (1)

Jack Pallance (998237) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126718)

Not FTA:

"The team's next journey will involve a cash-powered boat where they will use $556,000 in one-dollar bills for fuel."

No word yet on weather this next boat can be adapted to accept a check.

What's next? (1)

Zouden (232738) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126746)

Wind-powered boats?

Re:What's next? (1)

tim_mathews (585933) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127029)

Bah! It'll never work.

Useless (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126751)

This seems utterly useless. I could see adding a bit of solar for thew little bit you'd use an engine (getting into port, etc) but reports suggest people who LIVE on sail boats year round only use about $1500 worth of diesel in a year (depending on price, this figure was from a few years ago).

Its not like they're sucking the well dry everyday.

Re:Useless (1)

Millenniumman (924859) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126856)

If you drive in a 20 mpg car, 10,000 miles per year, with $3 gas prices, you pay $1500 dollars per year for gas. Thats a rather inefficient car with less efficient, expensive fuel, greater speed, and no sail. This boat is useless, but imagine covering a giant non-nuclear gas powered ship with solar panels.

Re:Useless (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126957)

and a storm/stategic attack completely cripples the ship.
Also is there any numbers on whether or not you could cover a giant tanker-like ship with enough solar panels to get it to move at an acceptable speed?

Re:Useless (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127777)

Also is there any numbers on whether or not you could cover a giant tanker-like ship with enough solar panels to get it to move at an acceptable speed?
If there isn't enough space you can use kites with solar collectors :) ing&page=terrydowling/td_ryno.htm []

Re:Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16127276)

yeah yeah - and it's a whaling ship, and then greenpeace comes by and sprays OIL all over the solar panels.

Answer to "Why?" (1)

Gracenotes (1001843) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126759)

Solar energy will be the future of navigation techniques. But it needs more publicity and more confidence. -- from the site []

These people sound like Charles Lindberg in his book, The Spirit of St. Louis, except that he was writing about the future aviation in general while they're talking about solar naval transportation. "Lucky Lindy" was right, but are the transatlanic21 people as talented prophets as he?

If the people on the journey drift along having their engine shut off for most of the day, and then go at max speed for about 30-40 minutes, they would get to New York at their planned time, assuming that they used the planned course and that no major storms occur. Or, if they were able to keep the engine running for the whole time (going straight across the Atlantic), the trip would take them about 20 days.

Given the complexities inherent in solar panels and the photoelectric effect, I applaud these people for trying to start something. I do wonder why traveling skewedly across the Atlantic is taking them about 8 months, even assuming that there are no anomalies.

Time is money... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126762)

And most of us can't afford a 2 month journey to cross the Atlantic - even if is only costs a half a million dollars.

Well, I guess it is an improvement over Kon-Tiki [] which only had an ave speed of 1.5 knots. But at least it didn't use all this new-fangled technology!

If transportation advancement followed CPU speed or Disk Drive storage - whoa nelly! We'd be burning our nads off, zipping around!

Solar? (1)

el_womble (779715) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126778)

Oceans are great. Nothing in the way (bar a few icebergs and whales), few hills, low friction and its everywhere... well 2/3 of everywhere. Great for transporting huge amounts of stuff all over the world. Solar power not so much. Its only light for a few hours a day, its really hard to store, unless your a plant, and our currently technology extracts just over a third of the 1kW per square meter. I know container ships are measured in football pitches, but most of that surface area is doing something already. The other solar power, wind, is better, but we've done that already. If wind was a viable technology for the sort of sea transportation that we are used to we'd be using it. Wind power makes solar look reliable, and has a relatively low top speed - thats why we went to fossil fuels - its not because sea farers like change.

Why are people ignoring the temperature differencial? Toronto is already using one of the great lakes to generate power, there are trials in the Bahamas. Why not use it power ships? The oceans temperature is stable (at least in a human time frame) and there can be as much as 10 difference between deep sea and surface waters, thats plenty to drive a turbine using the syphon effect. Extend the range of tugs, and we have a winner.

Do you know whats better about it? Global warming makes it work better (at least until the deep seas catch up with the surface ;)

Re:Solar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16127113)

Why didn't they just go hydroelectric, with all that water lying around? ;)

Dude... (0)

jrobinson5 (974354) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126816)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these things!

And.... (1)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126820)

And the environmental cost of building these solar panels is...?

Filtering out submitters? (4, Interesting)

mh101 (620659) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126860)

Okay, so we currently have the ability to have the front page not show articles posted by specific Slashdot editors. How about expanding that, so we can specify specific submitters, such as Roland Piquepaille for example, who's articles don't show up?

Re:Filtering out submitters? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127252)

How about expanding that, so we can specify specific submitters, such as Roland Piquepaille for example, who's articles don't show up?
I second that! Or better yet, let Pigpail fans (either of them) bookmark his blog so they can read in peace without him needing to submit his trite tabloid pseudoscience ramblings here.

From the article: (5, Insightful)

fredmosby (545378) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126866)

the ship will undertake the first motorized crossing of the Atlantic without using a drop of gasoline

Except for all the nuclear powered ships and submarines.

Re:From the article: (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126999)

without using a drop of gasoline

And if you really want to be picky, ships don't burn gasoline. They use diesel fuel.

Dan East

Diesel (1)

ProfessionalCookie (673314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127581)

I dunno about your puny little boat but the last time I filled up my ship I used raw crude oil.

Re:From the article: (2, Funny)

chazzf (188092) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127179)

And all the steamships with coal-fired plants.

Re:From the article: (2, Funny)

zx-15 (926808) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127547)

And all the sail boats, that go back to 14th sentury.

The Swiss amuse me.... (1)

belligerent0001 (966585) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126953)

Of course the Swiss, being world reknown for their sailing abilities, came up with a totally innovative solution. Of course, if a hurricane happens to block out the sun for a week they would be up the creek (or ocean) without a paddle, or a sail, or one drop of gassoline.

Re:The Swiss amuse me.... (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127280)

Perfect time for the Swiss Navy Knife. It must have a sail attachment, you know for all those times they get becalmed on Lac Léman...

Can i be the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16126969)

.. to applaude these people for trying something new and different? we need people to go out there and attempt things like this, just to see if its possible. mark it up as another human achievment and advance of knowledge and ability. and if it creates potential new ideas and methods of using renewable energy source, all the better. it raises the profile of such efforts, and one day the money and technology may be available to bring this sort of thing mainstream.

yes, at the moment its slightly gimmicky, but if we want to move away from needing oil for everything, we have to mess with new ideas for a while along the way. if only so Joe Public can think more about renewable energy.

Obligatory Monty Python (2, Funny)

fire-eyes (522894) | more than 7 years ago | (#16126979)

Voice Over Mr. and Mrs. Watson of 'Ivy Cottage', Worplesdon Road, Hull, chose a very cunning way of not being seen. When we called at their house, we found that they had gone away on two weeks holiday. They had not left any forwading address, and they had bolted and barred the house to prevent us getting in. However a neighbour told us where there were.

The camera has come to rest on a very obvious isolated beach hut; it blows up. Cut to a building site in a suburban housing estate. There is a Gumby standing there.

Voice Over And here is the neighbour who told us where they were (he blows up) Nobody likes a clever dick. (cut to stock film of a small house) Here is where he lived (it blows up) And this is where Lord Langdon lived who refused to speak to us (it blows up). So did the gentleman who lived here....(shot of house: it blows up)... and here ...(ditto) and of course here.....(a series of quick cuts of various atom bombs and hydrogen bomb at moment of impact) and Manchester and the West Midlands, Spain, China ...(mad laugh)

Cut to a presentation desk. The film is on a screen behind. We see it stop behind him as the presenter speaks.

      Presenter Ah, well I'm afraid we have to stop the film there, as some of the scenes which followed were of a violent nature which might have proved distressing to some of our viewers. Though not to me, I can tell you.

(cut to another camera; the presenter turns to face it,)

In Nova Scotia today, Mr Roy Bent of North Walsham in Norfolk became the first man to cross the Atlantic on a tricycle. His tricycle, specially adapted for the crossing, was ninety feet long, with a protective steel hull, three funnels, seventeen first-class cabins and a radar scanner. (A head and shoulders picture of Roy Bent comes up on the screen behind him) Mr Bent is in our Durham studios, which is rather unfortunate as we're all down here in London. And in London I have with me Mr Ludovic Grayson, the man who scored all six goals in Arsenal's 1-0 victory over the Turkish Champions FC Botty. (he turns) Ludovic... (pull out to reveal that he is talking to a five-foot-high filing cabinet) first of all, congratulations on the victory.

      Mr Grayson (from inside filing cabinet) Thank you, David.

Anyway, very silly stuff, you get the point. []

Perfect! (1)

NerveGas (168686) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127004)

      You run into a dark, cloudy storm, and lose power. And the worse the storm is, the less chance you have of developing any power. For some reason, that doesn't sound like much more than a one-off gimmick to me.

      Yes, you could store energy in batteries, but storing enough power to get that boat very far in storm winds means a LOT of weight, which means a lower draft, more resisitance, and the need for more panels....


Re:Perfect! (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127261)

Don't get seawater on those batteries either.

Doesn't impress me (1)

bkhl (189311) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127010)

What I want to see is some of those automatic sailing vessels from Blue Mars.

Hybrid (2, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127047)

I think what's most interesting about this is hybrid vessels, that use both sail and solar power. Obviously the big limitation with sailboats is a lack of wind, which often occurs in fair-weather scenarios (high pressure system, thus clear skies). Solar propulsion would often complement wind power when needed most. It would also be useful for the other times when sail power is not used, such as navigating in and out of the docks.

Dan East

Re:Hybrid (1)

cbhacking (979169) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127278)

Mod parent up! This is certainly true. However, there's a problem with monohulls: their keels are heavy, and that reduces motoring performance. A catamaran or trimaran might do well with this hybrid system though. Stormy weather would be bad however; pots of wind (possibly to the point that sailing is dangerous, in which case you want powerful engines) but little sunlight.

You speak like somebody familiar with the issues blue water sailors face on passage. Are/were you, by any chance, a cruiser? Always looking to meet other members of the community.

???? uh time for what (2, Insightful)

drDugan (219551) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127221)

time for what? really expensive toys that take several months to get across the Altantic?

anything but mainstream.

Nice idea, but... (4, Interesting)

pete314159 (858893) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127416)

From the web-page: "Much of the expanding long-distance goods traffic on our oceans as well as many leisure boats could be powered by ecological solar energy. Solar energy will be the future of navigation techniques. But it needs more publicity and more confidence."

It sounds nice, but the practical application for the actual transportation of goods is something else.

The great things about ships is that the volume increases as a cubic function (roughly) of the length, but the drag only increases as the square. The area available to solar energy is more like a direct linear relationship to length what with ships being kind of long and skinny. That means that you can eventually build a ship big enough to carry it's own fuel to cross an ocean, and if you go bigger it can carry cargo even. Bigger still means more cargo with less fuel per cargo needed (generally). This is why we now have 1000 foot long container ships and 300,000 DWT ULCCs (Ultra Large Crude Carriers). But these ships that require less energy per volume still require a *lot* of energy, and not just energy, put power too (they need that energy fast). For example, the ship I work on (600 feet long by 75 feet wide, about 20,000 GRT--small by today's standards) requires about 14,000 horsepower to travel at about 17 knots when fully loaded. Just using a crude area approximation for the ship's dimensions and, say, 33% efficiency for solar cells you would get about 1630 kW of power, or about 2180 horsepower. 2180 horsepower won't even move a ship that size fast enough to maintain steerage. This isn't even mentioning the other auxiliary electrical loads associated with a ship (pumps, motors, air conditioning, sewage processing, etc.). Factoring average load for my ship in to that, you get about 1000 kW (1350 HP) available for propulsion. This is like trying to row a canoe with a spoon. Of course, if you don't put anything in the ship power consumption goes way down and you eventually get to the point where you have a boat like what they're using. But what business that makes money by moving lots of goods from A to B on a schedule is going to build a fleet of boats that can't carry anything and go very slowly? Maybe recreational boaters, but I don't see it so much for the commercial shipping industry.

I do wish them fair winds and following seas for their crossing, and hope that they are indeed correct that "Solar energy will be the future of navigation techniques" if for no other reason than we need to, as a society, start reducing out carbon footprint. As an engineer (a marine engineer, at that), though, I see a very long a tortuous path ahead.

Re:Nice idea, but... (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127487)

What if they apply the things they learn to 'lighter than air' ships, aka really big blimps. The upper third of those things would make incredible solar arrays given the appropriate cells were light enough, no need for batteries if they spend most of their time a thousand feet in the air (or higher), could use electric motors to propel themselves, much less friction to overcome than big boats, and if large enough could have fairly large payloads. I think there was reference to doing something like this in Snow Crash, but he didn't put a positive spin on the idea.

Given the need to produce 14,000 hp to move the monster ships at 17 knots, I wonder if this kind of thing would now be finally fiscally viable (and if not now, shortly.)

Re:Nice idea, but... (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127679)

About 10 years ago, there was a company in Europe (France, I believe) trying to make that happen. They built a huge hanger, build a half-size prototype zeppelin... then ran out of money and went out of business. The hanger was remodeled to be a jungle theme park, I believe.

It's still a good idea, though. A decent-sized zeppelin could haul 2-4 cargo containers at 40+ MPH, and there's no need for a crew... these are simple enough to just pop in a computer and GPS and let them go. Pity the company that was working at this didn't make it.

5-6 kts for $556,000? (1)

fuego451 (958976) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127582)

For about one fifth that amount you could build a 14 meter sail powered catamaran that will easily do 20+ kts on an average open ocean day and quarter 10 people. However, you would need to be an expert sailor to handle this boat because catamarans turn over very easily. I know because I've done so many times on small (5.5 meter) cats which, by the way, can do about 30 kts with a good wind.

So, I would really have to ask the question, "What's the point", other than we have the technology to build a solar powered boat; and have had for a very long time.

Novel, but silly (1)

GadgetMountainMan (236110) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127615)

Someone needs to take the crack pipe away from these guys. Making this crossing with a solar boat is a novel idea, but is is far from efficient, or even reasonable, especially at the slow speeds they plan to attain.

Sailing catamarans have been averaging over 20 knots on the open ocean for more than a decade. small sailing boats like Catalina 22's can travel at 5 or 6 knots (certainly not in the open ocean of course), but larger ocean going sailing (monohul) vessels go much faster these days.

For truly cutting edge clean and pure boat technology, check out the Hydroptere [] A hydroplaning sailing trimaran capable of over 45 knots!

Solar is fine for charging batteries for the electronics on the boat, but why try to propel a boat with it when the proven centuries old technology of sailing is still cheaper, cleaner, faster, and more efficient.

When a solar boat can make that crossing averaging more than 30 knots, I'll consider that to be news worthy. Until then, it is just a silly publicity stunt.

the big picture (2, Insightful)

PopeJM (956574) | more than 7 years ago | (#16127739)

I don't think anyone is getting the big picture. This is more of a move towards powering larger and larger vessels up to the size of today's fuel-burning ships. I don't think they're going "lol, who needs wind guys, am I right?" I think they realize as you must that it's rather impossible to make modern day ferries and passenger liners that don't burn fuel with current research. Hey maybe it's even possible to add to the technology of sails so much that you could make faster boats that use sails. Who knows?All I'm saying is, they're probably looking at this as the first step in a larger process and picture. If they're not, then they're missing out.
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