Staff Reporter
THE first passenger boat in the world which functions exclusively with solar energy, was sailing in the port of Palma yesterday.
With capacity for transporting 28 people, the launch of “Solemar” aims to raise public awareness on the ecological benefits of using this alternative form of energy.

Speaking during the official presentation of the vessel yesterday, Soledad González, president of the Electrosolar Technology Centre (CTE) at Marratxinet, said that the CTE is hoping that the ferry will be in operation on the Palma to Cabrera route this year as soon as it obtains the relevant permits. In 2005, it is anticipated that a solar-powered vessel will be linking the cities of Palma and Valencia. “When we can double the efficiency of the solar panels in about three years time, the boat will be able to go out to the open sea” signalled Lorenzo Balaguer, one of the engineers on the “Solemar” project. He indicated however, that for the moment, the technology only allowed the boat to navigate in coastal waters where there was not a great deal of swell. Currently, such a vessel is not able to carry any merchandise.

González pointed out that this catamaran of 10 metres in length with a maximum velocity of six knots, will not be consuming 1 million litres of diesel nor emitting 7'410 tonnes of carbon dioxide throughout its useful life of 25 years. Such pollution would otherwise be caused by a similar vessel if it were fitted with a conventional diesel engine.

He confirmed that, owing to the two small electric motors of 2'400 Watts which it has incorporated, there is no noise pollution.
The president of CTE was confident that “Solemar” will be capable of providing an alternative form of transport in the face of the “constantly increasing” price of a barrel of crude oil. Energy from the sun is free, there is an inexhaustible supply of it and the use of solar energy contributes to the preservation of the Environment.

Balaguer explained that the ship, built in Campos, has been designed to navigate below the globe's 48th parallel, as it is the region of the earth with more hours of sun. In the future, however, further study will be undertaken on the development of vessels on which solar panels might generate a power level of 300 Watts per square metre. This output could permit the transportation of a maximum of 200 tonnes of cargo, principally along the rivers of Continental Europe.

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