What does the future of renewable energy look like? Typically, when people think about renewable energy, they visualize miles of solar panels in a desert, large offshore wind farms, or residential solar panel projects, but what about powering on-demand transportation, such as an airplane, car or boat?
Solar-powered cars are nothing new to the R&D world, what typically holds the technology back in cost and infrastructure – as well as demand. Planes, an ideal candidate for solar power, carry such an expensive (and heavily regulated) burden that any progressive renewable energy retrofit in that sector, particularly on a massive scale, is quite a ways off.
In the case of ocean travel, however, renewable energy could look something like the Turanor PlanetSolar Solar Boat, which recently completed an 18-month journey across the world using only the power of the sun. Embarking from Monaco in September 2010, the Swiss-designed boat cost $26 million and comes complete with 537 square meters of solar panels that powered its voyage from Monaco to destination spots such as Miami, Cancún, Brisbane, Singapore, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi.
Raphael Domjan, the visionary of the boat, aims to get a message across to the public that it is indeed possible to travel the world without the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, a major externality to the entire planet given the mitigation and adaptation cost of climate change, are no longer a viable long-term energy option, although many fossil fuel companies would argue otherwise.
It doesn’t help that most of the world’s entire infrastructure is linked to fossil fuels, making it extremely laborious and costly to alter our existing way of life. Projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and the Alberta Tar Sands only exemplify the lengths companies will go to for a world addicted to a finite fuel source. It’s clearly time for sweeping, progressive change and a new energy market.
While the Turanor is obviously not for everyone’s budget, projects like this introduce a breath of fresh air to business as usual. The mere fact that the ship ran solely on solar power and successfully made a trip across the world demonstrates not only the technical might of renewable energy, but the potential the industry has to compete with the standard fossil fuel-powered fleets that have existed historically. The next step is to bring this conclusion to the rest of the market, reduce the price and make clean, renewable and sustainable energy the energy of today and of the future.
Cross-posted from the San Francisco Energy Cooperative.
Photo Credit: Pierre Bona