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Solar-power boat ends world voyage

Planetsolar ends 585-day trip round the planet using only the Sun to give power

3 May 2012

AFTER a journey lasting 585 days and 60,000km, the world's largest solar-powered boat has arrived in Monaco to become the first boat to travel round the world without using any carbon-based fuel.

Looking like a seagoing copy of the starship Enterprise, the Tûranor PlanetSolar catamaran was powered over the record journey by 537sq.m of solar panels which can give a maximum power of 93.5kW (127hp).

The photovoltaic panels powered six blocks of lithium-ion batteries which drove two electric motors with less power than a scooter, at just 20kW.

It points the way to new advances for other maritime users - although expedition leader Raphaël Domjan - who first came up with the idea - said he did not see supertankers or container ships being powered solely by the Sun.

French captain Erwann Le Rouzic piloted the Planetsolar over the finish line outside Monaco's Port Hercule just after 14.00 today along with Domjan and the three other crew.

Le Rouzic told Le Parisien the silent vessel had proven its worth in more ways than one: off the Australian Barrier Reef they had been able to travel alongside a whale for two hours without disturbing it.

Planetsolar has crossed the Atlantic Ocean, the Panama Canal, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal and the final section of the Mediterranean: traversing all the longitude lines and crossing the Equator twice.

The voyage was funded by a solar panel manufacturer and Météo France and yesterday the 31m vessel - which is 23m wide with the solar panels at full extension - hit its record power production of 661kWh.

Follow the expedition's return to Monaco - expected around 14.00 - at the website www.planetsolar.org

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