Solar-Powered Boating: The New Horizon

Solar-powered boats are the new frontier in watercraft.

With some of the coolest technology and amenities, these boats can stand up to the test!

The Surge of Solar

The Institute for Energy Research identifies that  French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the ability to convert sunlight into energy in 1839. Since then, this field of science moved forward very slowly. But the solar energy field has gotten very exciting in just the last few years. Lower costs have created a higher demand for solar, causing the market to respond with even more innovation. While solar power isn’t quite taking over every aspect of the energy market, it sure is taking out a good bite. One of the biggest bites happens to be in boating. While today’s solar-powered boats aren’t built for high speeds, not all boating activities require moving very fast. 

Today’s Solar Boat

As quoted in Soundings, RDK/Nature Power CEO Dan Kruger said that with the affordability of solar systems, the demand has risen substantially. According to him, where a solar system for a boat once cost over $4,000, now it’s $1,000 or less. The boats of today that are solar-powered range from do-it-yourself jobs, to customized solar boats with some really awesome features. The proof is in the pudding though for Captain Jim Greer, who according to Soundings, traveled 7,200 miles on his boat without using a bit of fossil fuel or power other than the sun! Indeed, for the boats of today, solar-powered systems aren’t just a dream or an oddity. They have become an affordable reality that is far less expensive to power and very environmentally friendly. 

Solar Sailor

EcoCitizen Australia wrote about Dr. Robert Dane and his incredibly solar sail technology. Amazingly, the sail is designed to be able to collect solar and/or wind energy. It can be attached to a boat and works in a way that can rotate creating wind energy while also collecting sunlight to create solar energy. Used largely on ferry boats in Australia’s Sydney Harbour, the Solar Sailor combines two vastly popular and promising areas of renewable energy. 

Luxury Solar Yachts

Just because you’re carbon neutral doesn’t mean you have to give up the cool factor. This YouTube video shows all the features of this 50 meter sailing yacht with solar sails. The concept known as Aquila expands on the solar sail, generating energy from the wind as well. This yacht has a different look and design from traditional yachts. It consists of a flybridge with a pool and deck for lounging. It even has a garage on each side for storing toys like jet skis. While not yet available for purchase, this exemplifies real projects and real directions in the world of solar-powered watercraft. 

Aditya Solar Ferry

India’s largest solar-powered ferry is called Aditya. Ferrying people from Vaikkom and Thavanakkadavu, it has carried more than 600,000 passengers in two years of operation without using any fossil fuel. Aditya is another example of how speed is not the most important part of all (or even most) watercraft. Ferries don’t have to travel at high speeds. People take them to get from place-to-place and they provide valuable services to many communities all over the world. The amount of fossil fuel saved in the short period of time that Aditya has been commissioned is truly astounding. 

Next Steps in Solar-Powered Boats

Materials involved in the collection and conversion process of solar power have definitely gotten less expensive in just the past few years. Beyond this, battery technology has also improved. But in order to really make solar power take-off in the energy world, batteries will have to continue to improve. This is the major push as the field expands. There are definitely exciting times ahead as solar-powered boating continues to become more commonplace. Cheaper running costs for consumers, mixed with environmental responsibility equal a recipe for success by any standard.