I read about the plan for San Francisco to introduce two solar-powered, 600-passenger ferries during 2008 to shuttle passengers between San Francisco and Alcatraz Island and was struck by the photo which seemed really familiar. After digging a little further I realised that I've seen one of Solar Sailor's solar vessels many times at Circular Quay in Sydney.
Solar Sailor uses patented Solar Wing technology to both capture sunlight for electricity as well as wind power simultaneously. The wings move automatically, tracking the sun for optimal solar collection and the wind for optimal sail power. In extreme wind situations, they fold down against boat. Much like a hybrid car, large batteries on board the vessels store electricity generated by the diesel generators and collected by the solar panels. The electricity then powers the electric motors.
Interest in Solar Sailor vessels is definitely growing with the news that from the first of January, the Sydney Solar Sailor will be operating as part of the Zoo Express ferry service between Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo. A privately run ferry service using Solar Sailor 100pax solar hybrid ferries is also being established this year on the Australian Gold Coast to service stops between Paradise Point and Broadbeach with more stops being added over time.
Analysis: Its great to see more renewable energy used on the water considering that once upon a time wind power was it for the ships that travelled the world. We've regressed a long way since then but a change is under way and it brings with it the opportunity to keep diesel fuel away from our waterways which can only be a good thing.
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