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Environment

Solar boat begins record journey

Swiss solar pioneer Raphael Domjan thinks the sun's energy is being underutilised. To prove his point, he has set off with a colleague to circumnavigate the globe in a boat powered entirely by the sun.

Solar catamaran Turanor Planetsolar

The boat's two-man crew hope to cruise around the world in 140 days

Swiss adventurer Raphael Domjan has launched his bid to circumnavigate the globe in a solar powered catamaran.

The vessel left port in Morocco on Monday, September 27 on a journey that is expected to take 140 days and cover over 40 000 kilometers.

Domjan wants to show what existing renewable energy technologies can already achieve in a bid to promote their uptake.

"We have the technologies to change the world," Domjan told Deutsche Welle, "we can be optimistic we can do it."

His catamaran, the Turanor – meaning power of the sun in JRR Tolkien's fantasy elvish language – is the biggest solar-powered boat ever built.

With a length of 31 meters and a breadth of 15 meters, it weighs 60 tons and caries 13 tons of batteries.

Raphael Domjan on the boat's bridge

Skipper Raphael Domjan has been one of the key drivers behind the project

The boat manages to fit some 38 000 photovoltaic cells on deck, which provide the vessel's four electric motors with enough energy to cruise for up to three days without sun.

Bon voyage

The Turanor was built in the German port of Kiel at a cost of about 12.5 million euros.

The project was made possible when solar businessman Immo Stroeher decided to buy the boat and underwrite a hefty portion of its development costs.

Raphael Domjan, together with French fellow sea-farer Gerard d'Aboville, plans to take the vessel along the equator, sailing at an average speed of 7.5 knots.

They first aim to cross the Atlantic, then the Pacific via the Panama Canal. After traversing the Indian Ocean, they intend to arrive back at the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

Their boat also aims to draw publicity when it makes stops at major ports along the way, including the port cities of Miami, Cancun, San Francisco, Sydney, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

Deutsche Welle's Tanya Wood visited to the boat when it was first launched in Kiel – listen to her report by following the link below.

Author: Nathan Witkop (dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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