At a shipyard in Germany today, PlanetSolar unveiled the world's largest solar powered boat: a 30-meter long catamaran that will be powered exclusively by about 38,000 SunPower monocrystalline solar cells. Two sailors will circle the globe in a trip beginning early in 2011--this will be the first circumnavigation to be completed in an entirely solar-powered vessel of any kind. The catamaran will be launched for initial testing as early as next month. This will be the first solar powered ship to cross the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and maintaining an average speed of 8 knots (nautical mph) will make it the fastest solar ship to cross the Atlantic as well.
You'll be able to admire the solar ship in person at its two U.S. stops, New York and San Francisco. PlanetSolar is committed to solar education and a lower-carbon way of doing business, to boot: the company's website is hosted on a server powered by a solar installation, employees ride electric bikes instead of cars when taking short jaunts, the offices are in a partially solar-powered building, and they've been keeping track of the carbon impact of their project with the nonprofit MyClimate.
Sailing as close as possible to the equator in order to take advantage of the most hours of sunlight, the solar powered catamaran will be at sea for a projected 140 days as it travels nearly 25,000 miles. PlanetSolar CEO Raphael Domjan says, "We are excited that the solar-powered boat is now a reality...we look forward to our around-the-world trip, and are confident that SunPower's proven technology will get us there."
Currently, this is how PlanetSolar expects the route to look, though sea conditions may incur changes to the plan: