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Royal Caribbean Adding Solar Power to its Fleet

Posted by Adam Sewall In Monday, January 18 2010 under: Solar Industry News, Solar Power Info, Thin Film Solar

Royal Caribbean is bringing solar power to sea in a whole new way. The Miami-based cruise line operator has installed some 21,000 square feet of solar thin film on Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship. The $750,000 solar installation was completed by BAM Solar Power, a solar enegy installation outfit based in Jacksonville, Florida.

Given the sheer size of these ocean liners, it's not surprising that the thin-film solar installation provides but a tiny fraction of the ship's energy needs -- producing enough juice to light the promenade and central parking areas. And at $750,000, the system is not expected to provide a particularly attractive return on investment. Why, then, has Royal Caribbean made the move to get solar?

As relayed on Friday by the South Florida Business Journal, the company's motivations are rooted in environmental stewardship and the notion of what BAM Solar Power's President, Andrew Raskin, calls "future proofing":

Royal Caribbean, which is the world’s second-largest cruise company, doesn’t expect a rapid payoff on its solar panel investments, but they fit well with its overall effort to make energy-efficient cruise ships and care for the environment. The company’s annual sustainability report says eight of its ships have smokeless gas-turbine engines – the first in the cruise industry – which can reduce the exhaust emissions of nitrous oxide by 85 percent and sulfur oxides by more than 90 percent. Other Royal Caribbean efforts to include more energy-efficient lighting and air-conditioning systems that can turn off automatically when balcony doors are left open too long.

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Raskin said another reason Royal Caribbean is installing solar panels is what sustainability architects call “future proofing.” In other words, utilizing imperfect existing technology will pave the way for easy adoption of more efficient solar panels in the future. Old panels can be ripped off and new ones installed.

So next time you find yourself sprawled out on the mezzanine deck of a Royal Caribbean ship, Mai Tai in hand, just remember that the sun can do more than make suntans.

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