This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

December 06, 2006

Solar-Powered Ship Begins Transatlantic Voyage

Photo of the sun21, which consists of a deck mounted on two pontoons, each of which features an enclosed cockpit. The solar panels are mounted in a canopy over the deck.

The sun21, shown here during its christening, is attempting to cross the Atlantic using only solar power.
Credit: Rafael Dietschy, transatlantic21

The first ship to attempt a transatlantic voyage solely on solar power launched from the Spanish port of Chipiona on December 3rd. Sun21 is a solar-powered catamaran developed and sponsored by the Swiss Transatlantic21 Association. The ship plans to follow the route to the New World sailed by Columbus in 1492, with ports of call in the Canary Islands and Cape Verde Islands before embarking on a three-week non-stop effort to cross the Atlantic. The five-person crew plans to make port in the Caribbean island of St. Martin before continuing first to the Bahamas, then Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and finally stopping in New York City in May 2007. The boat uses 10 kilowatts of solar modules to power a battery bank and two 8-kilowatt electric motors, allowing a constant speed of 5 to 6 knots. See the press release (PDF 105 KB) and boat description on the Transatlantic21 Web site. Download Adobe Reader.

Another boat is gearing up for a round-the-world attempt using biodiesel as the fuel. Employing a futuristic, wave-piercing design, the Earthrace plans to depart Barbados on March 6th, 2007, in an attempt to set a new world speed record for circling the world in a powerboat. The current record for the journey, which covers 24,000 nautical miles, is 75 days. The Earthrace team hopes to shatter that record by completing the voyage in less than 65 days. Utah-based Better Biodiesel, Inc. is providing the fuel for the race. See the Earthrace Web site and the Better Biodiesel press release.

Meanwhile, the deadline is rapidly approaching for applications to race a car around the world using alternative fuels. To commemorate the centennial of the "Greatest Auto Race" of 1908, the "Great Race World 35,000km" will start in New York City on February 12th, 2008, traveling first to San Francisco, California, and then crossing the Pacific Ocean by boat to resume the race in Shanghai, China. The race is slated to end in Paris, France, on May 3rd after roughly following the track taken by early automobiles 100 years ago. To capture the spirit of innovation from that race, the modern version will offer a prize of $1 million to the race winner in the Innovation Technology division, which includes alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles. The deadline to submit applications is December 31st. See the Great Race World press release (PDF 109 KB) and Web site. Download Adobe Reader.