Solar Sal, a 40-foot, solar-powered delivery vessel, has completed its voyage from Lockport, New York, to Mechanicville, New York, without the use of any fossil fuels. The maritime transport vessel carried four tons of recycled cardboard bales 300 miles along the Erie Canal.
When the sun is shining, Solar Sal’s 5 kW solar arrays can generate more power than its two Torqueedo electric motors can use. The vessel runs at its peak performance (5 knots, the same speed as the big tugboats can run on the canals) using only half power. On board batteries hold enough charge for an additional 50-mile run after dark.
Awarded “Best in Show” at the recent 2015 Tugboat Roundup, Solar Sal is the larger of two available prototypes designed by David Borton, PhD, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for various uses including cargo delivery, food delivery, tourist transportation, private yachts and fishing boats.
Maritime transport using solar-electric propulsion remains in its infancy and will take some time to become a cost-effective cargo delivery method, according to Cascade Tissue Group, one of the companies that sponsored the voyage. Other sponsors include The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County and Hullspeed Performance Marine Coatings.
Alternative fueling of maritime vessels is on the rise. The market for electric and hybrid marine vessels is growing, according to Electric Boats, Small Submarines and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) 2014-2024.