The energy of the future is solar, or so believes a French electronics engineer based in Doha who sees good prospects for solar powered boats in Qatar, especially along the Corniche and around the man-made island, The Pearl Qatar.
Alternative energy is not just a hobby for Olivier Boegner who works in a major gas company here, but a real passion having sailed countless time in a solar powered catamaran (a multihulled boat) on the rivers and seas of his native France.
More than that, this summer with a group of likeminded renewable energy enthusiasts he will cross the English Channel, a 100 km-long trip on a solar-powered trimaran from Dieppe in Normandy, France, to Newhaven in the UK South coast.
Olivier said he could, with the right support, eventually transport over to Doha the 9m long trimaran and demonstrate the concept.
“The goal is to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency here in Qatar. I want to demonstrate the potential of solar power and that solar-powered boats have proven track records,” Olivier told The Peninsula.
“The goal is also to raise awareness about the present climate change and the idea of sustainable energy. Not to mention fossil fuels will be depleted in the long run.”
Such boats are powered by electric motors with storage batteries charged by photovoltaic cells. For instance a single KW produced by 7 sqm solar panels can propel a one tonne boat in calm seas at an average speed of 8 to 10 km per hour for 12 hours on a bright day.
But the biggest challenge is changing the mindset of people. It is hard to convince them of the advantages of the concept, according to Olivier.
These boats in general create more power during the day than they consume and the electric motors function with hardly any noise which shows the advantage they can have along Doha's Corniche and bays, said Olivier.
Besides, it is much easier to fit solar panels on a boat than say a car because it is more adaptable and another advantage is that it requires minimum maintenance.
Several European countries are implementing rules and regulations on lake pollution limits and maximum boat speeds, therefore the sun as a renewable source of energy is best suited for slow moving vessels with the solar panels forming a large shaded area.
Currently, solar boats ply Europe's lakes and rivers. The Swiss have a wealth of experience in this field, said Olivier. MW-Line for example is a manufacturer of a line of solar-powered boats which have been used to carry passengers around Swiss lakes for a couple of years now.
Closer home, there are plans to convert the abbras (water taxis) that ply Dubai waterways into solar powered vessels with the same passenger capacity of between 25 and 30, he said.
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