Eco Innovator November 2011


Building Unmanned Solar Powered Ships

Solar Sailor and Australian ship builder Forgacs Engineering Pty Ltd are to build the world's first wind and solar powered unmanned ocean vessels.

The companies will utilize Solar Sailor's patented Unmanned Ocean Vessel (UOV) technology and Forgacs' commercial ship building capability that includes major Navy work.

The vessels will require no fossil fuels and give off zero-emissions. Photovoltaic solar cells will cover the stowable aerofoil type wingsail and much of the deck. The propeller will be driven by an electric motor (without engine noise) and used in low-wind-conditions for manoeuvring, collision avoidance, and stealth missions.

The vessel is a "game-changer" for the $2 billion worldwide UOV market, says the chief executive of Solar Sailor and the technology's inventor, Robert Dane.

"Other types of UOVs currently in use deploy at sea for hours or days only, and use strictly finite amounts of on-board stored fossil-fuel or solar generated electric power for propulsion," he said.

"The Solar Sailor UOV offers unlimited time-at-sea with the primary propulsion being wind (with the SolarSail) for the vessel's movement, and renewable-electricity generated at sea from propeller regeneration. Photovoltaic cells on the SolarSail power all electronics such as steering, lighting, movement sensors and satellite communications."

Solar Sailor aims to build the world’s first wind
and solar powered Unmanned Ocean Vessels.

"Abundant reserve electrical power is stored in Lithium Ion battery packs low down in the hull, which also act as ballast to balance the vessel. This opens a new suite of capabilities and markets in highly-sensitive security or weather-risk areas, in military operations and coastal border protection with unauthorized maritime arrivals, oceanography and meteorology, and marine safety at sea," said Dr Dane.

Tony Lobb, director of Forgacs, said with vessel-monitoring from on-shore, Navies and coastguards will be able to enjoy limitless at-sea operation, large payload capacities, low capital cost, no risk to crew safety, and low running costs with no on-board crew or fossil fuels.

"This proven Solar Sailor technology is already powering six vessels in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Australia," he said.

The initial idea for Solar Sailor began in 1996 when Dr Dane, a medical practitioner, watched a solar-powered boat race on Lake Burley Griffin. He noticed the winning boat angled its solar-panel to the sun in one-plane but had to pull the panel down when the wind rose to keep the vessel seaworthy.

Robert, who was marine-obsessed since boyhood, realized that sun and wind power together would be much more efficient. His readings on the evolution of insects confirmed this. Early insects grew buds to catch the sun's energy that grew into wings to catch the wind's energy.

In 1997, Dr Dane's boat, powered by solar and wind, won the race by five laps over the next solar vessel and started his career joining two renewable forces together for maritime use.

Since 2000 Solar Sailor has been a public unlisted company. It has 170 shareholders, and is chaired by former prime minister, Bob Hawke.

Forgacs is a privately-owned shipbuilder and Navy defence contractor with 1,000 employees, and operates on seven marine and engineering sites in NSW and Qld. Forgacs was the Hunter Region Manufacturer of the Year in 2010 and has a major contract to supply modules for the Australian Navy's Air Warfare Destroyers - the largest ever Defence project in Australia.






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