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Heart and solar

Solar powered around-the-world boat makes Mumbai stopover. On a mission to finish world tour in May 2012  

It has been solar, so good for M S Turanor, the world's first and only solar powered yacht on an around the world voyage from 'Planet Solar', Switzerland who came to Mumbai on its maiden visit on December 1. The M S Turanor was supposed to be in the city till yesterday. Some "security concerns" made Turanor curtail its already short stay in Mumbai and leave on Sunday itself. It is now headed towards north UAE. The security in place because of Naval Week also stymied a proposed tour of the boat but the crew spoke about their philosophy and the adventure all fueled through solar power. 


Watch me go: The Turanor, in all its glory

The M S Turanor has been sailing around the world since the past 428 days and had come to Mumbai from Phuket (Thailand) from where it set sail on November 11, 2011. No, it did not sail in the Thailand floods, which were well documented in the news recently!    

The goal of the PlanetSolar team on board the Turanor is to be the, "first to circumnavigate the globe in a, 'solar' boat which is driven exclusively by solar energy," says the crew. Even solar energy needs that unbeatable cocktail of passion and conviction and that, says the crew, is what Rapha l Domjan, Swiss initiator and Expedition Leader of PlanetSolar has. Domjan (39) came up with the PlanetSolar concept. Domjan believes in the synergy of man and nature. Giving meaning to the term multi-faceted, he is an ambulance driver, a high mountain guide, a rescue specialist in perilous environments, and today, the leader of Turanor, which has already had a finished over 40,000 kilometers, during which the boat made stops in Miami, Cancun, Panama, Galapagos Islands, Bora Bora, Tonga, Brisbane, Manila and Hong Kong. Three quarters of the world tour has already been completed.

Mumbai, Mumbai
Says Domjan, "We have been 5-km away from the shore of the Gateway of India and we could not get closer because of the Navy Week. We are now proceeding in the direction north of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and since three-fourth of our journey is already completed. We are looking to finish the entire globe by May 2012."

With this project, the PlanetSolar has two objectives. Firstly, to show that current technologies aimed at improving energy efficiency are reliable and effective, and secondly to advance scientific research in the field of renewable energy. "Conserving our planet by promoting solar energy, energy efficiency and eco-mobility is at the heart of this project. Our initiative will also inform the general public and make them aware of the importance of renewable energy," adds Domjan.

Says Capt, Erwann Le Rouzic, part of the crew, "This is such a good example of what will be possible in the next few years. It is illustrative of what we should be thinking about concerning sustainable energy, solar energy in particular, and I think the time is right to push in the right direction. The technology is here," he ends rousingly. Before joining PlanetSolar, the Capt. was cruise ship captain for Compagnie du Ponant, a small luxury cruise ship. He has replaced captain Patrick Marchesseau, in Noumea, New Caledonia, after the first half of the world tour. Capt. Rouzic is now in charge of bringing Turanor PlanetSolar all the way back to the finishing line to a place that Mumbaikars might associate with a salty, round biscuit -- Monaco.

It's possible
Leader Domjan believes that the impossible can become possible. Never mind the thick plumes of smoke and smog over cities, never mind the nuclear radiation or the perennial battle between development and environment. Domjan says, "We can have a brighter and less polluted future. The economy and ecology can work together." The Turanor is moving proof of that Domjaneology which. decoded, means Domjan's ideology. The yacht or boat started its adventure from Monte-Carlo on September 27, 2010. Says Domjan, explaining the working of the boat, "The engines are electric and the power comes from the 537m2 of solar cells on the deck. We also have batteries to store energy for the night as we are navigating 24 hours a day."

A five-person team on shore based in Switzerland for administration work and communications helps the five-person crew on board. A journey lasting more than a year would not be without its troubles and Domjan admitted that, "We have encountered some strong storms during the journey but everything went well. We have made it through 45,000 km and are still going strong."

Besides Domjan, there is Capt Rouzic as part of the crew. An electrical engineer accompanies them. There is a photographer who puts down his camera and wields the ladle. He doubles up as a cook, certainly an interesting double role. Then, there is a bosun. Traditionally, a bosun is an unlicensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship. The boatswain or bosun supervises the other unlicensed members of the ship's deck department. The bosun is distinguished from other able seamen by the supervisory roles: planning, scheduling, and assigning work. This definition of a bosun and his roles might differ a little when the crew and vessel is a smaller one, like this one. There is also a mate on board. In nautical terminology, a bosun's mate say some definitions is responsible for handling small craft, winches, anchors, cranes, and the like. They are also responsible for the physical infrastructure of the small craft.

Ever onwards
Domjan admits that there are other boats that run on solar energy but he says, "This is the only one that has attempted a round the world tour propelled by solar energy It is also the biggest one." Domjan says that the Mumbai stopover, stop 'n' go though it was, was, "interesting."  

He says, "Unfortunately, we have not seen enough of Mumbai. The stopover was too short and we were extremely busy preparing our next leg. But what we saw of it was impressive! We loved it very much!" Ask him about whether he experience the notorious Mumbai pollution, and he says, "That's exactly why we make stopovers. To show what can be done today with solar energy. We'd like to encourage people to do the same and prevent their beautiful countries and cities from pollution as much as they can."

As this 35m long and 23m wide boat, moves on to conquer new oceanic frontiers, with a crew capacity of 40 persons, but filled to only one-eighth of its capacity now, it will strive to live up to its name. The name Turanor is derived from the classic 'Lord of the Rings' saga by J R R Tolkien and translates as "the power of the sun" and "victory". And, having already completed as they say, three-fourth of the journey, the Turanor is powering ahead, using the power of the sun to give a twist to the adage, 'well begun is half-won' to, 'three-fourth done is nearly won'.

In the air too
The Solar Impulse is the first aircraft in the world, which can fly without fuel. It has 12,000 solar cells. It is 63-meter wide and weighs 1,600 kilograms. It has staying in the air for 26 unbroken hours in 2010.
A CNN report says that the idea for Solar Impulse came from Bertrand Piccard, the first man to travel non-stop around the world in a balloon. "We almost failed (because of) lack of fuel," Piccard said of his epic journey back in 1999. "At that moment, I made a promise that the next time I would fly around the world it would be with no fuel at all. And that's how the vision of solar impulse was
born," he said.

How the PlanetSolar Project Came AboutIt began like many things do --  with a dream. In the late 1980s, Rapha l Domjan started imagining and dreaming about travelling around the world using the minimum amount of energy. He first envisaged achieving this with the help of an amphibious microlight. In 2003, he and the company Horus Networks proposed solar-powered Web hosting and e-mails to their clients.

In 2004, Rapha l Domjan came up with the idea of achieving the first round-the-world voyage in a solar boat. At that time, it was not yet fashionable. This meant he first had to convince his future sponsors and the schools involved.

To do this, he brought together and motivated a team of enthusiasts ready to follow him on this adventure. "At first, I wasalone. I only had my dream to convince people with," explains Domjan. In February 2008, the financing of the boat was secured thanks to the support of the first main partner. Today, more than 100 people are working for the PlanetSolar project around the world.

A solar race for cars
The World Solar Challenge is a solar-powered car race, which covers 3,021 km (1,877 mi) through the Australian Outback, from Darwin to Adelaide. The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools. The race has a 20-year history spanning nine races, with the inaugural event taking place in 1987. The objective of this competition is to promote research on solar-powered cars. Efficient balancing of power resources and power consumption is the key to success during the race. At any moment in time the optimal driving speed depends on the weather (forecast) and the remaining capacity of the batteries. It is equally important to charge the batteries as much as possible in periods of daylight when the car is not racing. To capture as much solar-energy as possible, the solar panels are generally directed such that these are perpendicular to the incident sun rays. Often the whole car is tilted for this purpose.

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