"Ms. Turanor PlanetSolar"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, December 11, 2010

An exciting new concept in boating is being introduced. With the ability to makeelectric motors smaller and lighter, the use of smaller, light weight lithiumbatteries and the addition of solar panels, the vessel TURANOR (the name is derivedfrom J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and translates into “ThePower of the Sun”) PlantSolar is circumnavigating the globe on solar electricpower alone. It is a catamaran style, with a “wave-piercing” conceptdesign to enable it to “slice” through the waves, using less energythan conventional designs that have a boat “ride” the waves. Thevessel, which looks somewhat like a small aircraft carrier, is 102 foot longwith a beam of 50 foot and a weight of 95 tons. The surface of the Turanor, thelargest solar boat in the world, measures over 5,700 square feet. It is designedto act as a solar generator to ensure the vessel can keep going for long periods – upto three full days, without sunlight. Solar energy is stored in lithium batteries.

I was recently privileged to have a private meeting and opportunity to interview a press representative, Ms. Annette Knaeffl of Germany, traveling with the TURANOR expedition while it was moored at dockside in Miami. The Turanor barely resembled a vessel docked among some of the world’s largest fuel-guzzler yachts. It was a remarkable ship to view and as I read off my list of questions, my host was very accommodating and knowledgeable of the project and able to answer my questions. I learned that owner and financier, Immo Stroher, a veteran of the solar energy industry, invested $17.5 million into the development of the vessel. His press release regarding the expedition states, “We want to help drive forward the development of sustainable energy technologies on the water and in other mobile applications. The aim is to offer future-proof solutions for sustainable living in major cities and environmentally responsible mobility concepts. Urban cities near water, such as Monaco, Singapore, Sydney and Hong Cong, plus so many others, can benefit from this technology to provide fume-free, energy-efficient transportation solutions to its residents.

I am thrilled to be part of this project. It is my vision to see solar power take its rightful place — not only on rooftops, but also on the roads, seas and in the skies of the future.”

I learned the Turanor began to circle the globe on Sept. 27 with a crew of six when it left Monaco. The goal is to study how a vessel will “behave” during such a long voyage using solely the energy of the sun and to prove dependence on oil can be broken. The ship’s route is via the Atlantic, the Panama Canal, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal with stopovers in Miami, Cancun, Sydney, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

After a 63 day passage, the Turanor cruised through Government Cut into the port of Miami, where it docked for four days and hosted more than 650 visitors, who viewed its unique design and learned about its journey.

During my interview, I was told while under way the vessel can extend more solar panels like wings, increasing the boats length to 115 feet and its beam from 50 to 75 feet. The solar cells generate enough power to charge the world’s largest (13 ton) lithium ion battery, which can hold enough juice to run the vessel’s electric motors, computers and navigation systems overnight and store up to three days worth for cloudy day encounters. Crew members noted, “Charting a course isn’t as simple as plotting straight lines in the GPS system, daily weather reports enable us to steer toward bright sun and favorable winds.”

After departing Miami, the Turanor spent nine days cruising to Cancun, Mexico, where it will be on display for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Control (UNFCCC). It will provide visible proof of efficient use of solar technology to improve the climate of our planet.

As I see it, to see this vessel was to witness what truly is a maritime marvel and a deep look into our future.

To follow the course of the Turanor PlanetSolar you may log on to their website at www.planetsolar.org, where press releases and photos will appear. Project founder Raphael Domjan remarked in a recent press statement, “There are so many of you out there, following our trip and reading our logbooks. We have received a lot of mail, from places as far apart as South America and New Zealand, words of encouragement and support. ... PlantSolar is your project, we just represent it.”


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