An interview with Gerard d’Aboville captain of the largest solar powered boat in the world, which is currently touring Greece.
What brought you to this project and why are you involved?
I was contacted as an advisor when the ship was on its world trip. I couldn’t take part as I had another job at the time but now the boat is in its ‘second life’ and is undertaking scientific research lead by Geneva University.
Where are you currently sailing? What expedition are you on and what is its purpose?
We are in Greece at the moment and we are going to do two weeks of experiments looking for underwater prehistoric remains. Last year the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar did experiments on the Gulf Stream.
Tell us about the TerraSubmersa expedition. How are you a scientific platform? What experiments are you undertaking and what are you looking to achieve?
The boat is a good platform and it is very easy to steer. It is perfectly suitable for the job. We are close to a continental shelf that was above the seas in prehistoric times and we are able to make a very accurate chart of where it used to be.
How important are solar powered boats to the maritime industry currently and how important could they possibly be in the future?
I can’t imagine this boat carrying cargo or passengers. It is best suitable for scientific cruises. It is an ambassador for solar powered travel and it is a great achievement that a 100 ton boat can travel around the world being powered by the Sun but I personally think electric battery power is the future with solar power being a plus.
What similarities and differences does it have to captaining a standard boat?
If you were to have a solar ferry you will need 1,000 or even 10,000 square metres of solar panels for it to reach the equivalent power levels! It is unrealistic but this boat proves that solar energy can work and tomorrow’s ferries could be solar powered if technology improves.
Has the power system worked seamlessly? Have you had any issues?
No it’s worked very well and Greece is a perfect location as we have a lot of Sun! No problems at all. In fact, there’s so much Sun we haven’t needed to have all the panels in operation.