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The Warsaw Voice » Other » December 3, 2008
Technology
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A Boat Powered by Solar Energy
December 3, 2008   
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Engineers from the Ocean Engineering and Ship Technology Faculty of the Gdańsk University of Technology in northern Poland have designed and built an experimental passenger boat powered by solar energy.

The boat, called Solar, was singled out for praise in the Innovation 2008 contest at the Industrial Technology, Science and Innovation Fair in the coastal city of Gdańsk. Powered by energy generated by photovoltaic panels, it is the first such boat built and operated in Poland. For six months now it has been sailing through Gdańsk's canals and plying the waters of the Bay of Gdańsk in both good and bad weather.

The Solar was built in 2008 and the money for its construction was provided by the Regional Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management in Gdańsk. Other sponsors included the Ocean Engineering and Ship Technology Faculty of the Gdańsk University of Technology. Prof. Janusz Rachoń, rector of the Gdańsk University of Technology, and Paweł Adamowicz, mayor of Gdańsk, lent their names to the undertaking. The boat's designers are Wojciech Litwin, Wojciech Le¶niewski, Karol Niklas, Dariusz Duda, Arkadiusz Łabuć, and Paweł Dymarski.

The Solar is over six meters long and 2.5 meters wide. It achieves a top speed of 12 kph, but its most economical speed is 8 kph. It has a crew of one or two and can take 10 passengers on board. It is driven by a 5 kW propeller known as an azimuth thruster. Each of the 12 photovoltaic panels on the boat's roof has a power output of 120 W. The Solar can sail for 12 hours in cloudy weather before the batteries run out. It was officially unveiled and launched May 24 on the Motława River in Gdańsk. The boat is moored in a local marina and is still undergoing trials.

Visitors to this year's Industrial Technology, Science and Innovation Fair in Gdańsk could also see other original watercraft built by Litwin and Duda together with students from the Korab Students' Research Circle at the Gdańsk University of Technology. These included an original pedal boat called Rektor and a solar-powered regatta boat.

Both the pedal boat and the regatta boat have performed well at international regattas. The Rektor won the International Water Bike Regatta in Zagreb, Croatia, this year.

The Rektor is a combination of a pedal boat and a catamaran. Although it is tall, the addition of two catamaran hulls makes it uncapsizable and greatly reduces water drag. It is called Rektor in honor of Janusz Rachoń, former rector of the Gdańsk University of Technology and now a senator who strongly supports the Korab circle.

The Rektor can move forward and backward at a speed of around 20 kph. It is easy to maneuver and has a high towing power. The designers say their invention, built for regattas and in keeping with regatta regulations, could also be used by centers organizing active vacations.

The solar-powered regatta boat also attracted much attention among visitors to the fair. It had been built especially for the Solar Challenge regatta in the Netherlands.

"The Solar Challenge is a grueling race," says Duda. "You have to sail 240 kilometers, divided into several stages, using only solar power. The organizers provide solar panels to create a more even playing field for all the participants. You have to design a regatta boat with a set power output. We have a one-person and a two-person boat and have been competing successfully."

The Korab Research Circle brings together students who design and build human-powered and solar-powered watercraft. They regularly take part in international competitions such as the annual International Water Bike Regatta in Croatia and the Frisian Solar Challenge and Zeeuwse Zonnebootrace regattas in the Netherlands.

Piotr Bartosz
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