Big Oil's argument that renewable energy can't address distance travel is getting slightly weaker (for a certain economic class, anyway), thanks to the efforts of the nerdiest catamaran on the planet.
The 102-foot mega-yacht - completely powered by 8000 solar panels - was built by the Knierim Yacht Club, in Kiel, Germany, who named it "TÛRANOR PlanetSolar". Lord of the Rings fans might recognize that first word's Elvish origins; its meaning falls somewhere between "the power of the sun" and "victory".
While the boat's silent, pollution-free electrical engine isn't powering the vessel from the Shire to Mordor, it is carrying a six-person crew (it can hold up to 40) on a trip around the world, chugging along at a max speed of 24km/h. The goal of the project is "to demonstrate that high-performance solar mobility can be realised today by making innovative use of existing materials and technology."
However, the sunny intent of the journey is shaded slightly by the price tag for the solar-powered yacht. At a cool construction cost of €12.5 million (CAN$17.4 million), TÛRANOR PlanetSolar is yet another talking point in the ongoing conversation about the feasibility of renewable energy sources as alternatives to oil. It's a dilemma the team behind the project addresses on their site:
"This only makes sense if the costs are reasonable and competitive. Therefore, we are mainly using materials and technology available today which have the potential to be mass-produced, thus lowering prices and operating costs considerably over time."
Which is important. If sources like solar are only available to the wealthy, energy change on a systemic level will remain a world away.
Follow the progress of TÛRANOR PlanetSolar on its satellite-updated Google map.