While Solar Impulse 2, the aircraft powered by solar energy is reaching the end of its journey around the World, another “eco” international industrial enterprise tries to emulate the challenge. Across the sea.
It is called Solar Voyager: a small boat leaving Boston for Lisbon, relying only on two solar panels on board. Designed and built by two friends in their spare time, Isaac Penny and Christopher Sam Soon, for the sole purpose of making a dream come true: building from scratch a boat able to cross the sea – better, the Ocean. Solar Voyager would be the first “autonomous kayak” to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and the first one to cross any ocean using solar power alone. Along its journey, it will periodically broadcast live satellite data about its current status and position. Everyone can monitor the trip live at the solar-voyager.com website.
Four metres in length and one in width, Solar Voyager has enough space to house two solar panels of 240 watts. The total power generated daily is up to 3 kWh in winter and more than double in the summertime (7 kWh).
The propulsion actuator uses almost all the power, while the rest is distributed to the various electronics. With this expected power output, the journey should last at least four months. The boat is expected to arrive in Portugal by the fall.
A big hull with a substantial weight affects the efficiency. However, the added weight provides additional inertia that ensures spatial stability to the boat. It should be easier and safer for the propulsion system to maintain a steady heading amongst the waves. Solar Voyager has two sealed watertight compartments designed to support the weight of the ship even if the other sections of the hull are filled with water. It will increase the chance to recover the boat if the electronics stop or the propeller is broken. Solar Voyager still has a long way to go, but it has already put its name on the map.