All good points...
I suppose I should have prefaced this with the fact that this is for a demonstrator vessel which will be testing and refining application of various green technologies to determined what sort of things that are available today are practical and viable options for boat upgrades within the marine
world. As such, some of the initial installation
costs will be higher than anyone in their right minds would want to pay and the return on our investment from a pure numbers standpoint may not be that great. But, our intended return is more in moving certain currently high cost (read out of reach) technologies toward commercialization and honing them to the point that they are both affordable and practical and at a price
point where we can all justify buying
As to solar, the thoughts for us are what good is solar if you can't afford it or if you can't put enough of it on your boat in places that won't result in damage to the solar arrays or detract from the enjoyment and usefulness of your vessel to make a difference.
The way we see it, all the parts
of the puzzle and all of the needed technologies are out there, but instead of taking the general approach of trying to reshape boats and boating
around using certain technologies and products, we want to find ways to shape those technologies around the way we live and work
on our boats and on the water.
To me these supposedly "successful" green yachts that take the form of a trimaran
so wide it could never enter most marinas
that has solar panels
on every flat surface leaving the only "yachting" to be done taking place below decks and resulting in a boat that's capable of cruising the world at 4 knots but doing little more than moving itself in the water are jokes and wastes of money
. Figuring out how to meet the energy needs of the thousands and thousands of existing boats on the water today without changing the way we sail...that makes sense (and it's cheaper!).
Regarding the hull-solar applications, as I said in the original post, we do realize that at current
technical levels that the production on hull-surfaces may not be the best. But, we do as mentioned have some ideas (such as movable reflectors) that could augment the efficiency and production of them. Also, while thin film is less productive, the vastly larger surface area afforded by using the hull is something that it seems a shame to waste. Ideally, we think that if we can show that the application works, that improvements in manufacturing and efficiency could be justified by the added market potential across the marine
I suppose it's possible to actually adapt rigid solar to a vessel hull and this is something we've considered. The trick would be first not making the boat look like crap and second protecting the panels from damage. It may be that in the end, an adaptation of more mainstream rigid panels is justified by the lower cost and higher performance over flexible thin film cells.
One option we are considering is moving away from photovoltaics in general and instead leveraging the heatsink effect of the hull to produce power in ways similar to what is done with solar hot water arrays. These are much simpler and sturdier and low tech materials and leave only the challenge of determining how best to convert captured heat into stored energy.
The sailcloth idea is a good one too I think. Even more so sometime in the next decade as photovoltaic paints move from the lab and into production. For a sailboat to be able to leverage the great surface areas of their sails
not only for propulsion
but to generate onboard power would be a major step forward.
We actually have something like this going into our project
via our wind propulsion
system. It's a yacht-scale version of the kite-propulsion system used successfully by SkySails on several large commercial
vessels and tankers over the past few years. This system will provide all of our propulsion power once out of port but will also be a major source of electricity through regenerative propeller
functions. We're building into the system a third feature though that actually lets the kite itself via the slight changes in line tension while maintaining its flight patterns to generate electricity. This means it will eventually be able to deliver a constant 50kw of steady power not only while in motion but even when anchored or in port regardless of surface winds. The more things like this that come to fruition, the better our viable lives aboard are destined to get!