Renewables aboard sailing ships

“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
-Victor Hugo


Are we there already? Can a sailing ship be powered by renewables exclusively?

Obviously, a clear answer to that depends on what you are willing to invest in terms of time and money.
There are so many smart, promising solutions under way with renewables aboard sailing yachts. Here is a first selection. Wind, solar, wave-powered sailing boats and catamarans. Find even more projects and companies presented at the newly created, global Sailors21 Sustainable Business Directory.

For starters, have a closer look at Dutch yacht building innovation called Durzaam Jacht:

Renewables aboard: NL-built Duurzaam jacht

©SaltyColours / Laurens Morel.
Used with friendly permission, via Duurzaam Jacht.

My big favourite: Walk-able solar panel for sailing ships! Italy-based Solbian Energie Alternative SRL produces them, besides other for yachts. Quote from their site: “Flexible, lightweight, walk-able, extremely powerful and resistant to the harsh operating conditions of the marine environment,  with four fixing methods; Solbianflex modules meet the energy needs of on-board services.” Here an impression (screenshot from the site):

Renewables aboard: Solbian walkable solar panels for yachts
Then, Austria based Fipofix created a beautiful Open 16,  a “solar assisted, volcanic composite sailing yacht”.  Tested at the open sea in rough conditions, with success. Here it is:

Renewables aboard: Fipofix

Here is the full article as it appeared on Gizmag.

Some pioneers with renewables aboard

Read the fascinating account of African cats, the Dutch company which is developing “…a full-electric retractable propulsion and generation system for sailing yachts. African Cats plans to use a 40 kW lithium-ion battery pack designed to provide continuous operation for 12 hours at a speed of 6 knots without any recharging. Solar panels (4 x 210 Watt) and a wind generator (300 Watt) provide renewable power generation to recharge the battery. When the yacht is under sail, the electric motors regenerate power for the battery pack as well.”

Celebrate the timeless, magic combination of precious stubbornness and passionate boldness which has driven inventive spirits ever since. This time Kenichi Horie, a 70 year old Japanese, very well known in the sailing world for several remarkable adventures. In 2008 he successfully completed a sailing trip on a boat powered exclusively by waves. Het set out in Hawaii and arrived in Japan several months later and therewith is now “..the first person to have traversed the Western Pacific on a boat powered by waves.” read his vivid account and blog here in his own site, it includes technical schemes of the construction.

Solar Sailor is an Australian company who produces solar panel techniques and hybrid electric drives, for big and small ships. They serve very different marine markets including private yachts. Thus, their products  obviously come in a big variety of designs, see this gallery. They won the Technical Innovation Award at the Seatrade China Awards 2010 and have huge success: “…in fifty years time people will look back at boats of the 20th Century and they’ll say “where are the wings”?”

Ecolution is a fine project by former Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels who flew into space 25 years ago and came back with a strong wish to help saving our blue planet. A passionate sailor, Ockels had built a ship where “…wind power is literally and figuratively the driving force for sustainability on board. While sailing, the propellers drive their generators (which can also act as motors) to recharge the batteries. One day of sailing stores enough energy for up to 10 days of comfortable living on board.” Despite the fact that this fine ship was sunk inside Groningen harbour in the night of December 2, 2010 by a bunch of idiots – a more civilised term is hard to find – the ship has been rebuilt. And sails again. Team spirit goes a long way!

Follow Pangaea, the most eco-friendly sailing research ship ever built of that size, on her four-year voyage across the seven seas. Pangaea is a two-master equipped with youngest high tech according to current ‘green’ standards. Quote from project lead Mike Horn’s website: “At 35 metres in length, the 30-berth vessel combines comfort and safety with rugged versatility and premium innovation. Integrated in Pangaea are the latest state-of-the-art and eco-friendly, sustainable technologies with Mercedes-Benz BlueTec engines, solar panels, a recyclable aluminium hull and trawling nets for bottles”.

About mele

I research and write about the intersection of yachting with the environment aka 'sustainable sailing'. From sourcing planet-friendly yacht construction materials, sailors for ocean science, clean regattas, renewable energies aboard right up to yacht recycling. Academic training in environmental science, sailor, living at the shores of the Dutch IJsselmeer. Want me to write for you, too? Get in touch!

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