Fantastic Voyage: Across Europe With Solar Power

stockholm sweden baltic to barcelona photo

Stockholm, the beginning of the trans-European trek. Photo by darkpatator via Flickr.

Road trip! Next spring, solar-powered boats and land vehicles will hit European waterways and highways to travel north to south across the continent, from Stockholm, Sweden, to Barcelona, Spain, on a journey that organizers expect will establish benchmarks for trans-European solar-powered trips.In addition to the typical crew of drivers and maintenance engineers, the Baltic to Barcelona teams will include a multilingual musician, a singer, an actor, and a dancer who will provide entertainment at events held along the way to demonstrate the technology. (A lucky travel writer also gets to tag along to document the trip.) The route was chosen, organizers say, because it provide "a range of physical and climatic conditions in northern higher latitudes" in which the vehicles and boats can show what they're made of:

The objectives of the journey are to demonstrate that mainstream, normal-style solar-powered vehicles and boats can perform more than adequately, day after day, to provide up to twenty-five percent of the world's transport needs without loss of average speed and average load carrying.... These are simple practical small vehicles and boats with no plug-in facilities and no use of fuels

The planned journey is an initiative of the Peoples Projects Foundation, a Netherlands-based nonprofit that funds sustainable-energy-related projects that are "practical, sustainable, economical, and commercially realizable right now." The organization is currently raising money for the six-month solar-powered journey, in part by offering seats for legs of the trip to paying passengers.

The organization is already funding its first project, the Solar Circumnavigator, a round-the-world trip on a 60-foot solar-powered boat made out of renewable plywood that is slated for summer 2011. The vessel is expected to cover 25,000 nautical miles over four months or so, from Lizard Point, the southernmost tip of Great Britain, to Panama, Australia, and back through the Suez Canal and the Strait of Gibraltar.

One of the boats making the Baltic-to-Barcelona trek will be a scaled-down version of the Solar Circumnavigator adapted for traversing canals, rivers, estuaries, and other inland waterways.

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