PlanetSolar solar-powered ship prepares for second mission

After six months of maintenance and optimization, the composites-intensive MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the world's larges solar-powered ship, will soon begin a new scientific mission.

PlanetSolar SA (La Ciotat, France) reported on Feb. 28 that after over six months of maintenance and optimization, the comosites-intensive MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is back in the water and preparing for its 2013 solar campaign. The improvements will expand and diversify the ship's applications, and enable it to navigate to the northernmost part of the Atlantic for the first time. The mission will include a scientific expedition along the Gulf Stream, a waste collection campaign in European waters and educational events. The boat will feature a new crew that will lead the largest solar vessel ever built on its 2013 campaign, which will be officially launched on March 18 in Monaco.

For information composites design for the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, click "Designing the largest solar-powered yacht."

The success of the first trip around the world powered exclusively by solar energy has demonstrated the maturity of the prototype's photovoltaic technology. Those two years of solar navigation were instructive for PlanetSolar and led to an initial assessment of the vessel's performance. This assessment indicated where optimizations were needed to make the ship more efficient and maneuverable. These improvements will expand and diversify the ship's applications and uses, notably, enabling it to navigate to the northernmost part of the Atlantic, near the Artic, for the first time.

Six months of dry-docking were necessary for PlanetSolar to carry out the ship's maintenance work and optimizations, such as refurbishing the cabins, creating a sundeck on the bridge, reinforcing the mooring cleats, increasing water tank capacity and improving the rudder. The most substantial optimizations were made to the propulsion system—the surface propellers were replaced by a completely immersed system, and more powerful electric motors were installed on the bow thrusters. Now that this maintenance is complete, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is back in the water to begin a navigation phase test that will reevaluate its performance, and primarily its speed—a key element in the successful completion of its 2013 campaign.

The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will officially begin its 2013 campaign on March 18 in the Principality of Monaco. It will leave for the Atlantic, where it will attempt to break its own world record speed for a transatlantic crossing that is powered only by solar energy (26 days in 2010).

rom May, in collaboration with the University of Geneva, the ship will become a platform for scientific research in the framework of the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition. Led by Professor Martin Beniston, climatologist and co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, an onboard scientific team will collect new data along the Gulf Stream. The ship will follow the ocean current from Florida to the Far North and will put into port in Miami, New York, Boston, St. John's, Reykjavik, Bergen, Oslo, and Paris.

In the summer, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will be called upon to clean up floating waste in European waters. In collaboration with the Waste Free Oceans Foundation, the ship will be equipped with an trawling net that can collect up to 8 tons of marine pollution. In the fall, the catamaran will continue its solar energy promotion campaign and sail to the cities of Izmir and Istanbul. These stopovers will be opportunities to meet with local populations and promote photovoltaic energy. Instructive events aimed at young audiences will be organized aboard the ship.

The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, built in Kiel, Germany, is a catamaran that runs exclusively on solar energy. After two years of design and construction, PlanetSolar is responsible for many technological advances, notably in the domain of composite material manufacturing and solar energy storage.