The Sun's The Limit

0In the very near future, solar energy could conceivably become the fuel for the boating industry. To prove that point, in 2011 a team of two will attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a jumbo- sized catamaran yacht named PlanetSolarthat will run exclusively on the power of the sun.

Unveiled last Thursday at the Knierim Yachtbau shipyard in Kiel, Germany, this craft illustrates both the advantages and the drawbacks of solar power. The boat requires only the sun, a seemingly inexhaustible resource, for its fuel. However, PlanetSolar’s immense proportions--a whopping 60 tons, and 102 feet long, about 50 feet wide, and 24 feet tall--are largely dictated by the fact that it must accommodate on its top surface over 5,300 square feet of solar panels to collect the sun’s energy. The boat’s average speed is a plodding 9 mph.


 In April of 2011PlanetSolar will embark on its world tour from New York to San Francisco and conclude its journey in Abu Dhabi. Raphaël Domjan and Gerard d'Aboville, who became the first person to row solo across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, comprise the entire crew. (The team can only hope that the solar-panels will perform as advertised and Monsieur d’Aboville’s rowing ability will not be required on PlanetSolar’s maiden voyage.)


The team is using PlanetSolar’s global excursion to send the message that solar is more environmentally-friendly than other fuel sources. According to the team, boats, our major means for transportation of goods, produced 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2008, a full 6% human’s total carbon dioxide emissions. Solar-powered sea craft are “carbon neutral.”

 In their quest to help bring about a solar future, the seafaring team is swimming upstream. According to most prognoses, solar power will never exceed 1% of the world’s energy use. By 2050 the lion’s share of global energy demand will be met by coal, oil, gas, and nuclear. Hydro- power will supply 6% of our energy.


 It is conceivable, of course, that future technological developments, such as Japan’s proposed Space Solar Power System (SSPS) could dramatically expand solar power’s role. The SPSS involves establishing an array of orbiting solar panels that would collect the sun’s energy and transmit it to power stations on Earth via microwaves or lasers. These stations, each the equivalent of a mid-sized nuclear power plant, would then deliver electricity to homes, businesses, factories, and presumably whole cities. Japan does not foresee this “macro-solar” energy system becoming operational until 2030.

 There is no doubt that PlanetSolar’s 2011 voyage will garner a great deal of media attention and public interest. However, PlanetSolar’s “day in the sun” might not be enough to convince the public, government policy makers, entrepreneurs and investors that solar has to potential to play a significant role in the transportation industry.


The Superlongevity Effect
Intrepid Guidelines For Anticipating the Future
The Leader As Futurist