Solar boat makes Atlantic history

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A five-strong Swiss crew have sailed into history by completing the first solar-powered transatlantic crossing.
The Sun21 catamaran arrived in Miami late on Thursday, 117 days after leaving Seville in southern Spain.

The crew of four academics and one full-time sailor said they were trying to promote the "great potential" of solar power to combat climate change.
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Comment: Some may state that this will never amount to a thing but then that was said about the airplane as well, only to see them go from fragile boxes with engines to supersonic fighters and ocean spanning jets in less then half a century.

Whether in a hundred years or a thousand, eventually the oil will run out. It would be well and wise to have practical alternatives in place.​
Nobody said they broke any speed records. They probably would have done a lot better just hoisting the sails. Still, it seems to me as if the idea has some potential. Whether or not it will ever be practical commercially is anybody's guess. Hang around for a century and we'll know!
The trouble with solar panels is that in round figures they give about 100 watts per square metre in ideal conditions. They will work electronic devices or charge batteries used for light loads, but they are hopeless when mechanical power is needed.

Some years ago, we had a solar powered boat run down the River Murray. It could raise about 2,000 watts, which powered two little electric outboards, such as can be bought "off the shelf". They could just cope with a breeze. A witness said, "Let's see it go upstream."

Unless the efficiency of solar cells can be radically improved, they have no future in practical transport. In 2001 I watched the solar cars in the race from Darwin to Adelaide. Each was supported by a number of ordinary vehicles and would not have got halfway without them.
Sometimes you can know so much about something you can't see the truth.

Every sailboat or clipper ship, or windjammer from the lowliest pond yacht to the proudest man o'war was solar powered. And, so is every America's cup racing yacht or knockabout daysailer. The wind is primarily created by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun. This is a result not only of the planet spinning on its axis, but also the fact that the axis is tilted.

So, the guys with their solar cells, batteries, and what-not have the technological heads up their technological garbage chutes. They simply re-invented the wheel, but forgot to knock the corners off. They risked their lives trying to prove they are too stubborn to learn anything outside their narrow field of expertise.

Just 'cuz something is new tech doesn't mean that it's better tech. Perhaps they would have been better off reading a nautical history book than studying solar/electrical conversion. Perhaps the educated dolts might learn something and not try to kill themselves slowly with their next experiment.

In a practical world, the energy needed to move a boat through the water--especially against wind and wave--is beyond solar electrical generation now and probably always be so. This doesn't mean solar power won't be an important part of our future, just not as a transportation fuel unless somebody makes an unpredicted breakthrough. It is far more likely we'll be using solar-powered computers than ships, cars, or trains.

These stunts are politically motivated, not science driven. The people involved know they are not "on to" sometime. And, they knew full well that the only thing making their voyage possible was that if something went wrong, a big high-carbon-footprint U.S. Coast Guard helicopter would appear overhead offering them salvation from their own stupidity.

-- David G. Brown
>>Unless the efficiency of solar cells can be radically improved...<<

I wouldn't count on it in the foreseeable future. I wouldn't write it off entirely either, but if this is going to be workable, some vast improvements are definately called for. The sort that I don't think even the youngest among us will see in their lifetimes.
Mike-- Photo voltaics of the massive power needed to move a vessel of any size are probably outside the bounds of reality. My point is that the over-educated dunces of academe overlooked that as long as 7,000 years ago human beings had managed to use the massive energy of solar-powered wind. Doh!

-- David G. Brown
>>My point is that the over-educated dunces of academe overlooked that as long as 7,000 years ago human beings had managed to use the massive energy of solar-powered wind. Doh! <<

Which is a helluva lot faster to say nothing of massively cheaper.
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