Solar power isn’t the first thing you think of when you consider buying a boat. Wind power maybe, particularly if you own a sail boat; but sustainable solar powered boats still sound like something from a futuristic comic book. The day when science fiction and reality meet and sun-powered boats race across the surfaces of U.S. lakes and rivers may not be as far away as you imagine.
Thousands of family members, students and green energy supporters were on hand last weekend for the 8th annual Solar Cup boating competition on Lake Skinner near San Diego. High school students from 36 Southern California campuses raced homemade boats powered entirely by the sun across the lake in an exercise geared to promote engineering skills and awareness about alternative energy and water issues. The annual event is sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
Powered solely by on-board batteries fueled by energy collected from solar panels, the small boats are a fascinating amalgam of bare bones boat construction and complicated electrical wiring. While the student’s boats may not have exuded the sleek styling and comfort most boat buyers seek, innovative boat builders are experimenting with marketable solar-powered boats. Several large-scale prototypes are being tested and conversion kits for do-it-yourselfers are already available on the Internet.