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World's largest solar yacht skirts pirate waters, arrives Qatar

by Nancy Knudsen on 24 Dec 2011
Turanor PlanetSolar berthed in Doha after a voyage from Mumbai .. .
The world’s largest solar-powered boat has arrived in Doha, in the tiny rich state of Qatar. Turanor PlanetSolar, attempting to demonstrate a future world where we won't need polluting fossil-fuel to travel the oceans, has skirted the Arabian Sea pirate zone after its departure from Mumbai in India.

PlanetSolar left Mumbai on 3rd December and sailed the coastline of India and Pakistan before entering the Gulf of Oman, with Iran to starboard and United Arab Emirates to port. She is now in Doha as a guest of QSTec, a Qatar-based solar grade polysilicon company and after departure will still have the pirate infested Gulf of Aden to transit.

The strange craft was greeted with great excitement, as has so often been the case during her long journey. 'We are excited to see this breakthrough, once a dream, which has become a reality,' QSTec board member and CEO Dr Khalid Klefeekh al-Hajri told the Gulf Times this week while welcoming the PlanetSolar team at The Pearl-Qatar marina.

'The arrival of PlanetSolar in Doha strengthens QSTec’s resolve to develop products that will enable the creation of new and innovative uses for solar technologies to help protect the environment,' he said.

The German-built prototype craft, powered by 537sqm of photovoltaic cells spread across the top deck, started its voyage on September 27, 2010 in Monaco and follows a route close to the equator. It is scheduled to conclude its trip back in Monaco in May 2012.

'We have covered more than 50,000km so far only on solar energy and crossed the Atlantic Ocean, Panama Canal, Pacific Ocean and part of the Indian Ocean,' project initiator and expedition leader Raphael Domjan said.

The boat’s owner, German businessman Immo Stroher who funded the $25mn project, and crew members Erwann Le Rouzic, Jens Langwasser, Christian Ochsenbein, Thomas David and Oliver Goldenbow were present on the occasion.

PlanetSolar consumes 20 to 30% energy from batteries during night. From the team’s experience over the past 15 months at sea, the captain said cloudy days are good enough for solar power generation.
'We have found that dust has no impact on the efficiency of the photovoltaic panels, but bird droppings have,' he added.

The boat, which is in the last stages of its ground-breaking circumnavigation, will remain berthed at The Pearl-Qatar marina for three weeks, during which time the crew will fly home for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

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