Solar Catamaran Has “Sunpower Inside”

solarbooooaat Solar Catamaran Has Sunpower Inside

A showcase project called PlanetSolar plans to build a solar-powered catamaran and sail it around the world, and it has chosen SunPower’s cells to do the job.

San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower said Wednesday that it plans toprovide 38,000 solar cells with 124 kilowatts of generation capacity.The cells, which can convert 22 percent of the sunlight that hits theminto electricity, will be embedded into the skin of the catamaran.

The selection of SunPower is not so surprising. The boat will haveto rely on solar power only. That calls for highly efficient solarcells, and SunPower is known for producing the most efficient siliconcells on the market today.

The boat is supposed to come with a lithium-ion battery pack as well.

PlanetSolar wants the catamaran to be the first boat poweredexclusively by solar power to circumnavigate the world along theequator at a speed of 8 knots. The project is meant to demonstrate howthe shipping industry could reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. We did a story about the project back in March.

The boat will carry two crew members and make many stops includingHamburg, London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Shanghaiand Abu Dhabi.

The Knierim Yacht Club in Kiel, Germany, is building the boat.Construction is set for completion in early 2010, and the boat willcruse around Europe next summer. Then, the 140-day worldwide voyage is set to take place in 2011, according to the project website.

PlanetSolar doesn’t appear to have disclosed the cost of this project, which is relying on a host of sponsors.

SunPower declined to disclose the financial terms of this deal. Aproject like this would offer tremendous publicity value, so the solarcompany could well be providing the cells at a good discount.

SunPower has participated in similar showcase projects before. In an interview last year, the company’s co-founder Dick Swanson fondly recalledthe company’s involvement in Honda’s efforts to build a solar-poweredracecar back in the 1990s. The car, which could go 90 miles per hour,went on to win a race in Australia.