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Earth Transportation Technology

Swiss Solar Powered Catamaran Finishes 'Round the World Tour 110

Posted by timothy
from the honestly-they-were-just-sick-of-mountains dept.
First time accepted submitter wokie78 writes "The PlanetSolar, a Swiss solar powered catamaran, has just arrived to Monaco (French original), its initial port of departure, after finishing its voyage around the world which it started in September 2010. Its five-member crew completed a 60,006 km trip fully powered by 537 square meters of solar panels, which produced from 500 to 600 kw/h in fair weather — which meant it could go for 300 km on a single charge. Everything on the boat was solar powered."
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Swiss Solar Powered Catamaran Finishes 'Round the World Tour

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  • Impressive, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2012 @07:07PM (#39905063)

    I'm pretty sure that sailing boats have been doing that with only wind power for many centuries.

    • Re:Impressive, but (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstrickler (920733) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @07:30PM (#39905197)

      Don't know why you were modded down, but you're correct.

      Nice demonstration. It's cool that they did it, but it's completely impractical.

      It would have made more sense to use a combination of sails and solar. A hybrid solar/sail would be far more practical, and would have completed the trip much faster.

      • Even better (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gr8_phk (621180) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @08:28PM (#39905453)
        A company I worked for did integration work on a hybrid electric sail boat. With electric props you can charge the battery from the wind while sailing - use the motors as generators. They produced enough power to run all electrical loads on the boat including air conditioning with a very small loss in speed. In dock you may want some solar to keep it charged.
        • I suspected that was possible, glad you have some experience confirming it.

        • Re:Even better (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2012 @10:26PM (#39905815)

          There's also towing generators for sailboats that have been around forever. When you have a nice amount of wind and are cruising along you throw the generator off the back on a line and it charges the batteries as it's towed along. They're very common amongst boaties.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        Nice demonstration. It's cool that they did it, but it's completely impractical.

        It is very practical if you need a ship that can sail to a spot and then generate a descent amount of electricity to run equipment. It also demonstrates the reliability of large solar panels at sea, a fairly harsh environment.

        Rule of thumb: if someone spent a lot of time and money doing something they probably had a well thought out reason for it, even if you can't think of it right this minute before you rush in to get an early top post.

        • by tomhath (637240)

          It is very practical if you need a ship that can sail to a spot and then generate a descent amount of electricity to run equipment.

          But that's not what they demonstrated. If you need a ship that can sail to a spot in in less than several months you need a more concentrated source of power. True that solar panels would allow some equipment to be operated if you want to stop somewhere in the middle of the ocean for whatever reason, but solar powered lights and radio beacons have been around for decades.

        • by jvillain (546827)
          I agree it is completely impractical. Any one that has owned or worked on a boat knows the life span of all those electronics is going to be very, very short.
      • by jvillain (546827)
        The fastest circumnavigation boats are all sail powered. The 24 hour record for the Volvo Ocean race for example is just over 40 knots or nearly 50 miles an hour. Sails = way less cost, way less maintenance, better longevity, don't make the decks unusable. The only thing solar is good for is powering the navigation, radio's and lights.
    • by Holi (250190)

      And most cruising boats worth their metal have solar cells that provide enough power to charge the batteries for night time use. This is really a non story. I know some guys who would rather wait for the wind then start up the diesel.

    • Technically, wind power is solar power. I agree, non-news.
      • by 12WTF$ (979066)

        Strictly, ALL power sources EXCEPT nuclear and ground thermal are solar power - formed by our sun (aka SOL) in hydrogen fusion.
        Nuclear and ground thermal (earth radioactive decay) are STRICTLY stellar power - formed by star(s) during supernova implosion.
        Loosely, solar power (SOL radiation from 1 million year decay of gamma radiation from 4H -> He fusion) can be conveniently
        partitioned into a) non-renewable hydrocarbon fossil fuel (SOL power via photosynthesis plus millions of years cooking) and
        b) renewab

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by voidphoenix (710468)
          Not disagreeing with you, but your post isn't entirely fair, because if you trace the chain back, everything is ultimately powered by the Big Bang. One step forward is gravity, which feeds fusion, which generates energy and all the other elements from hydrogen. So we have to draw the line somewhere to have a rational discussion. I'd suggest containing the discussion to our solar system. So we basically have 3 sources of energy: Solar, which feeds wind, tidal, hydro and petrochem; Nuclear; and Geothermal, wh
        • by aliquis (678370)

          ALL power sources EXCEPT nuclear and ground thermal are solar power

          How isn't nuclear "solar powered"? The molecules was created by a star. Right?

          Or the other way around, isn't everything solar powered nuclear powered? Considering that's what is happening in the stars.

          As for that reaction and ground thermal from radioactive elements in the ground (?) or pressure (?) can't we go one step further and claim that all energy is gravity based?

          Guess not if you ask a physicist.

          The point wasn't to go to the bottom of the subject. The point was that I think the claim is wrong :)

    • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Sunday May 06, 2012 @01:45AM (#39906397)
      It's not about effectiveness. It's about proving that solar panel and electrics have come far enough to actually do this. This is a first and it's a technology showcase. Now we have a record time and some other crew with a more efficient solar only boat will probably try to beat it.

      First non-stop trip around the world in a solar boat? First solo crew trip around the world in a solar boat? Expect Richard Branson to get into the race, once the time to complete a trip will fit into his schedule.
  • kW/h? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I knew the french were stupid, but kW/h? This article might be interesting if it made any sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2012 @07:17PM (#39905119)

    "537 sq metres of panels which produced from 500 to 600 kw/h in fair weather"
    No it produced 500 to 600 kW, whether it did it for hours or not depends on how long the "fair weather" lasted.
    "which meant it could go for 300km on a single charge" - meaningless. Perhaps they are talking about batteries. Who knows.
    If so they are saying (somewhat unrelated to the peak power generating capacity of the solar panels) that their batteries can store 500kw/hrs. and so can be charged in an hour?? Who can tell. And perhaps they are able to run (at some percentage of peak speed) for 300km.

    Of course none of this tells us anything really, since what you need for this to be "remarkable" would be to run much faster than the wind, otherwise I'd much prefer sailing.

    • by tomhath (637240)
      The article seems to say 500KW per hour, I have no idea what that means either. It does state that the batteries can make it go 300KM when charged 100%, but there's no mention of how long it takes to charge them or whether the motors can be used while charging. I assume they spent a lot of time in port, eighteen months is a long time.
      • by Guignol (159087)
        I suspect they meant kWh instead of kW/h, and I suppose this is how much energy the boat would harvest on a good day (?).
        Not terribly well reported, but I don't think the kW/h mistake is really due to complete stupidity, it looks more like a slip to me
        In french, there are two very common units in your every day life that are pronounced almost identically: km/h and kWh (french don't say kilometer per hour, but shorten it as kilometre-heure so it is pronounced almost the same as killoWatt-heure, except in o
        • by tomhath (637240)

          I suppose this is how much energy the boat would harvest on a good day (?).

          Yea, that makes more sense. Roughly the equivalent of having a 30hp motor when the weather is just right, which might be the scooter reference.

      • by mspohr (589790)

        The article has a few awkward sentences that are most likely due to a non-native English writer or poor translation.

    • by robbak (775424)

      I'm just trying to work out what a kw per hour might be. A Watt being a Joule per second, so a 1000 watts per second per 3600 seconds-hold on, I need a price of paper - Ah! .28 joules/s/s. Hmmm. That must be ... The rate at which the solar cells, decay, accelerates! Yes! So, if they started out at 550 odd square meters, -but is that per cell, per panel, of for the whole array? let's just say it's a god thing they finished when they did!

    • by srjh (1316705) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @09:37PM (#39905659)

      There's only about a kW of solar power available per square metre, and solar panels aren't anywhere near 100% efficient, so it can't be the output of the panels.

      This is why it's bad to have the scientifically illiterate writing articles - they mangle the units beyond recognition so you have absolutely no idea what they're talking about.

    • If so they are saying (somewhat unrelated to the peak power generating capacity of the solar panels) that their batteries can store 500kw/hrs. and so can be charged in an hour??

      Even that would be nonsense. Charging is an energy conversion, so the correct unit for its rate is simply that of power.

      That may not seem obvious, but consider the opposite - discharging. You normally do that through a motor, which are usually rated in watts.

      Obligatory car analogy: Energy is to power as distance is to velocity.

      Perh

    • by hey! (33014)

      Of course none of this tells us anything really, since what you need for this to be "remarkable" would be to run much faster than the wind,

      By that reasoning the only "remarkable" mountaineering ascent would get to the peak faster than being dropped there by a helicopter. The only remarkable marathon run time would be shorter than you could do it in a car. A telepathy based keyboard would only be remarkable if you type faster on it than on a regular keyboard.

      For that matter the first automobile crossing of the United States in 1903 took 63 days. Fifty years prior to that, the transcontinental railroad had already made the crossing possible i

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @07:27PM (#39905165)

    There have been ships running on renewable energy for centuries, using sails.

    • The scary part, aside from the fact that sailing has them completely pwn'd is that they probably aimed straight for the ocean currents which would give them the best speed boost.

      As I said elsewhere, trash makes it's way across the Pacific between California and Hawaii faster than this ship did!

  • kW/h? (Score:3, Informative)

    by orzetto (545509) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @07:33PM (#39905211)

    That's a new unit, the kilowatt per hour, basically an energy acceleration!

    I guess the real number is 500-600 kWh per day, given 1 kW/m^2 of solar constant, 14% conversion efficiency and 7-8 hours of full sunlight (morning and evening weighing less, I suppose). That's anyway a 23 kW day average in power production.

  • This is the second article today where the same three shill accounts have been used to start a conversation with themselves about Gamemaker and create phony buzz. Hopefully an admin type takes note of it and does something administrative about it. Modding the posts down only goes so far to curb that behavior.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      You could always click on the flag in the lower right corner of the post and report it as a shill.

    • Are they shills? I thought they were parodies of some advert I've not seen. Wikipedia lists three GameMakers, none of which has been in production for the last 10 years, so I assume it's not a current product, and I don't think anyone would pay to shill for something that hasn't been on sale for years...
      • by macraig (621737)

        I dunno what to tell you. There are examples of similar (though even less intelligible) posts to other sites, like answers.yahoo.com, again using multiple user accounts to create the appearance of a conversation. Maybe it's just a bored and profoundly stupid tweenager (twentysomething who acts like a teenager)? Sadly there's no meaningful restrictions to who can create a Slashdot account, nor even how many!

    • Hopefully an admin type takes note of it and does something administrative about it.

      No chance, they've all been seconded to the department of redundancy department.

  • by syncrotic (828809) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @07:33PM (#39905217)

    We know what solar panels can do. We know what electric motors can do. Putting the two together in a boat does not a novel invention make. Sailing it around the world is not a notable achievement.

    It's the same as all those ridiculous solar-powered races across Australia: they don't bring a solar-powered car one iota closer to reality, because a solar powered car will never produce more than a few kilowatts, and that will never be enough to overcome the air resistance of a vehicle in which a person can sit somewhat upright.

    Technology doesn't advance to overcome the laws of physics. Solar powered transportation of any sort will never do anything more than make possible novelty journeys for people with more money than sense.

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      It's still less stupid than, say, the record for most hot dogs eaten in an hour. If you're going to complain about other people's achievements, why not start there?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, they do dumbass,where precisely does that equipment get tested in the real world? Or how about what's the impetus to creating it for something that's possibly decades away?

      What makes it notable is that nobody had done that before. But then again, I suppose that first trip by Magellan around the world wasn't notable either because they had boats and they had sails, so clearly putting the two together and using them to travel around the world isn't notable. Which is probably why nobody knows who he is.

      • by syncrotic (828809)

        Magellan's trips were made notable for the fact that new lands were being discovered and mapped. Of course, advances were also being made in the science of sailing... advances that eventually spread to the whole world, advances that built empires. Compare this to putting some solar panels on a boat and slowly propelling yourself from waypoint to waypoint on your GPS.

        A more recent example of a truly notable expedition: Nautilus breaking through the ice at the north pole, proving the viability of nuclear subm

        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @09:51PM (#39905697)

          Nautilus breaking through the ice at the north pole, proving the viability of nuclear submarines and, at the same time, doing something that had never been done.

          Nautilus didn't break through the ice at the North Pole. It sailed under ice the whole way over the North Pole.

          Skate was the first to surface at the Pole, I'm pretty sure. Least, that's what they told us at Sub School.

          • Yes, the USS Skate was the first to surface at the North Pole. My father still has stories to tell of his time on that boat! The USS Nautilus was the first nuclear powered submarine.

            Just as a related question - why don't we see nuclear power on other vessels, for instance long distance tankers? It would seem ideal for long cruises and save tons on fuel weight.
            • by dbIII (701233)

              why don't we see nuclear power on other vessels

              Far too expensive for civilian vessels - except for things like those Russian icebreakers which may be military anyway. Cargo ships are designed to move things as cheaply as possible. Military vessels are designed to do the job in more adverse conditions and cost is lower proirity.
              Taking a risk on expensive R&D to build a nuclear cargo vessel is not something that private enterprise is going to do due to what would be high capital costs. IMHO you would s

              • Add to that, the main advantage of a nuclear vessel is that it can spend a very long time without returning to port. In terms of operational cost, it looks like they will become slightly cheaper than diesel ships in the next few years, but the point of most commercial vessels is to get between two ports as quickly as possible so being able to sit in the middle of the ocean for months and still manoeuvre at full thrust is not a useful feature. If the price of oil keeps increasing, however, they become a lo

                • by jvillain (546827)
                  I have to wonder if they could make natural gas work on a ship. Especially the LNG carriers. With Nat Gas below $2 per tcf lately some one must be looking at it.
                • by dbIII (701233)
                  Some of the R&D has been done (far more recently with those icebreakers I mentioned above than your very old example) but shipping companies would expect a finished product handed to them on a plate instead of having to build a few more prototypes themselves.
            • Just as a related question - why don't we see nuclear power on other vessels, for instance long distance tankers? It would seem ideal for long cruises and save tons on fuel weight.

              USS Savannah. She was built in the '60s, I believe, as a nuclear powered merchant ship. She's still on display as a museum ship somewhere on the East Coast, I believe.

              Alas, fuel oil was cheap, so she was never profitable enough to make it worth the bother of repeating the design.

              • According to Wikipedia the USS Savannah cost 50 million to build, about 28 million for the reactor. The internets say that she cost a little over $2 mil a year more than a conventional ship, back when fuel oil was $20/ton, due to the crew requirements.

                Yet at today's prices it would be interesting if it were economical. Also to be noted was the Savannah was not really built for economic viability but for a showpiece.

                She is supposedly docked in Maryland now, not far from Baltimore. On my next trip to Annapoli
        • by Anonymous Coward

          So, I take it you also hate that we went to the moon as well, because that's clearly a dead end as the furthest we an reasonably expect to ever go is Mars. It's cool technology and people pushing the limits is how we came to land people on the moon. Not everything has to have an obvious application immediately.

          If you declare something to be a dead end and give up on it, you've got yourself a nice self fulfilling prophecy whether or not it's a genuine dead end.

      • by khallow (566160)

        What makes it notable is that nobody had done that before. But then again, I suppose that first trip by Magellan around the world wasn't notable either because they had boats and they had sails, so clearly putting the two together and using them to travel around the world isn't notable.

        People have circumnavigated the world before, using just solar power. Magellan, to use your example, was the first such. Keep in mind that wind power is just a special case of solar power.

  • The panels are rated for 93kW
    I'm guessing they produce 500-600 kW/h per day
    The motors are 2 x 60kW max, 20kW total @cruise

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Here's a better article with more images http://www.charterworld.com/news/tranor-planetsolar-catamarans-record-transatlantic-crossing [charterworld.com]. So they have outrigger panels to substantial solar panel surface area with out compromising durability in tougher weather. They could have also used a bit of methane generated from crew waste, as long a the crew were vegetarian of course.

      • by Holi (250190)

        So almost the entire usable area of the deck is wasted for the solar panels. Get a sailboat and do it safer and with more style.
        Not sure I'd want to be on that thing in heavy weather,

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      kW/h/day!! Amazing! Why not call it kJ/s/h/day at that point?
      What the fuck happened to this place? Slashdot, your nerd card is revoked.

      Captcha: perplex

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      If you gonna criticize someone for screwing up their units, you ought to be careful of the difference between kW/h and kW*h.

    • by 12WTF$ (979066)

      The new Googlism for fuel consumption, 10-8 m2 is AWESOME
      Please type this into Google: 9 litres per 100 km
      (For our American educated? try this: "9 liters per 100 km")

      (9 litres) per (100 kilometres) = 9.0 × 10-8 m2
      More about calculator.

      9x10-8 m2 equals 9x10-2 mm2 equals 9x 0.1mm x 0.1 mm equals 0.3mm x 0.3 mm
      So my car's fuel consumption is a square with sides less than one third of a mm long.
      AWESOME!
      (Excuse off topic but I have only just picked myself off the floor after discovering this)

      • A litre is a unit of volume. A kilometer is a unit of length. Volume divided by length equals area. What's the problem? Miles per gallon is also an area measurement (well, the inverse of an area). If you want to convert litres per 100km into miles per gallon, just add "in mpg" to your google calculation.

        Of course, it is jaw dropping to know your fuel efficiency is comparable to the head of a pin.
  • The current world record for a circumnavigation by a sailing ship is just over 45.5 days. Less than one tenth the time.

    The record for a solo circumnavigation by a sailboat is under two months.

    All this does is remind us how inefficient solar power is with current technology.

    • by Arker (91948)

      All this does is remind us how inefficient solar power is with current technology.

      Or how much more efficient solar is with ancient technology. Sailing is solar too.

    • by Plunky (929104)

      The current world record for a circumnavigation by a sailing ship is just over 45.5 days. Less than one tenth the time.

      But what has this to do with anything?

      The record for a solo circumnavigation by a sailboat is under two months.

      But what was the time for the first circumnavigation by a sailboat? Joshua Slocum was the first solo circumnavigator, and he took three years..

      All this does is remind us how inefficient solar power is with current technology.

      And your comment reminds me that apples and oranges are b

  • by ArcadeNut (85398) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @08:22PM (#39905417) Homepage

    I read that as "Cartman" and I was like "WTF???"

  • by Holi (250190) on Saturday May 05, 2012 @08:50PM (#39905517)

    2 of these http://chetcomarine.com/coleman130wsolarpanel.aspx [chetcomarine.com], 1 of these http://www.wholesalesolar.com/products.folder/wind-folder/airx48marine.html [wholesalesolar.com].

    Replace my 30 hp Yanmar Diesel with an electric motor. I really only use it for docking and mooring, I'll luff through the doldrums. I worry more about too much wind rather than not enough.

    Double my current 6 6v golf cart batteries. and I could circumnavigate in comfort, and use all my gadgets.

    and I'd need a new boat, my little Pearson is fun for the coast but I think the ocean would break her

    Just saying that we have better ways to perform the task already.

  • I guess that a proof-of-concept boat might seem - at some levels - as though it was about as silly looking, in comparison to conventional boats, as silly looking as most concept cars, in comparison to the common consumer models.

    I think I understand, just from the summary, that it demonstrates the viability of solar power, in ocean vessels. Were I a boat designer aware of the matter, I might endeavor to give it some thought.

  • Physics 101:
    • Watt is the unit of power (e.g. Voltage in Volts times Current in Amperes.) Power can be popularly explained as the max burst of energy that can be produced in a very short time.
    • Joule is the unit of work (e.g. Power in Watts times Time in Seconds.) Work can be explained as the actual work done over a period of time.
    • Your electricity bill usually is in kilo-Watt-hours (which is a unit of work derived from Ws/Joule.)
    • The higher power the electricity connection must provide, the thicker the copper
    • Power can be popularly explained as the max burst of energy that can be produced in a very short time.

      Interesting. As someone who got top grades in physics I wasn't aware of this "short periods" restriction.

      The authors of Wikipedia and several online dictionaries appear to be equally ignorant.

      Lucky you're around to put us all right, eh?

      • Power can be popularly explained as the max burst of energy that can be produced in a very short time.

        Interesting. As someone who got top grades in physics I wasn't aware of this "short periods" restriction.

        The authors of Wikipedia and several online dictionaries appear to be equally ignorant.

        Lucky you're around to put us all right, eh?

        I fancy you didn't catch the term "popularly". You could be more specific in telling the world what you don't like about my popularisation and be praised for it.

  • No, seriously. I do know that the Swiss have life savers, I do know that the Swiss can swim; but every Swiss circumnavigator will forever be acoming around the mountain...
    I'm still laughing...
  • As many other people have pointed out travelling around the world's oceans with nothing but renewable energy has been done for several centuries now and far faster. The 2009 round the world race was won in 89 days http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vend%C3%A9e_Globe#2008-2009 [wikipedia.org] as opposed to the 2 years required to complete the journey with solar power. There is a reason that wind is almost cost competitive (in some places) with fossil fuels and solar is still a factor 4 times more expensive even in the sunniest c

    • by Bucc5062 (856482)

      I seen various posts about how this was not that special, a sailboat has done it before...but has anyone looked at the size of this boat. 102 ft long 55 ft wide...seriously folks, have you ever been on a sailboat, especially the ones they sail for speed? Space and comfort are the first to go. You could play tennis underneigh the panels in this thing and I figure the berths were a little drier then on anything less then then a luxury yacht.

      The advantage with this over sail is that the operation is vastly

      • by jvillain (546827)

        The advantage with this over sail is that the operation is vastly simpler then sailing, less people required to make it go

        What about when the salt water eats the electronics?

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