Solar-fuelled boat in HK

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am


The 31m high-tech multihull catamaran, MS Turanor PlanetSolar, which is making the first solar-powered round-the-world trip, docked at Hong Kong's Ocean Terminal on Monday. It will stay in port until next Monday.

The boat is solely solar-powered, which makes it a milestone for renewable energy. Hong Kong is one of many stops for the German-made boat during its historic journey.

The boat will not be open to the public for visits, but its crew will allow representatives of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and members of the press to board the ship.

MS Turanor is the largest solar-powered boat ever built. It is made from lightweight materials. On its deck and two extended flaps on each side, the boat is covered with 537 square metres of photovoltaic solar panels.

When fully charged, the vessel can travel at a maximum speed of 17km/h. It has a cruising speed of 9km/h. Its large solar battery enables the ship to go 60 hours without sunlight.

'The boat is good both for the environment and for the economy,' project founder Raphael Domjan says. 'The boat generates minimal carbon emission and operates under near silence. It is also cheap to manufacture, costing Euro15 million (HK$170 million) to build. It proves that clean technology has a future.'

Domjan says the greatest challenge the boat's crew faces on the round-the-world trip is the change in the weather. Those on board must forecast the amount of sunlight accurately to be able to plan ahead effectively.

Christian Ochsenbein, the ship's engineer, sees a huge potential in solar energy. 'It's efficient, accessible, and renewable. Unlike fossil fuels, it won't run out,' he said.

MS Turanor began its journey last September 27 in Monaco. Its next scheduled stop will be Singapore.