It's not exactly pretty. But the MS Tûranor Planet Solar catamaran is better than beautiful: the photovoltaic panels that completely cover its deck and fold out from its sides like wings provide 93 kW of solar capacity, equivalent to about 127 horsepower. Its lightweight carbon underbody includes crew cabins and a large array of lithium-ion power storage batteries.
As the Tûranor's designers put it, every clear sunrise means a power infusion. The four-person crew have taken the Tûranor on a round the world journey, covering 60,000 kilometers, and are now docking in Paris after a five-month sojourn that included being an emissions-free lab for the Deepwater expedition. (Deepwater's task was to take Gulf Stream measurements to help know more about how the stream regulates climate patterns.)
Not only is the boat without polluting emissions, it's also silent. But piloting a solar boat is no stress-free feat, according to its captain Gérard d'Abboville, who in his blog makes frequent reference to the special skills required. The Tûranor needs a fairly constant flow of sunshine to recharge, and maintain its top speeds of 5 knots. Strong wind conditions and lower-than-normal sun all led to anxiety and a need for careful navigation during this last Atlantic crossing. After having successfully completed 60,000 kilometers of sailing and crossing the ocean in just 22 days, however, the designers of the boat at Planet Solar believe it has proved the viability of solar sailing.
The Tûranor can accommodate 60 passengers.
Now its party boat time, however, as the Tûranor docks in Paris this week.