Germans plan RTW solar ship

First one round the world wins. Stay on the sunny side for best results.
First one round the world wins. Stay on the sunny side for best results.

Construction is underway of PlanetSolar, the first ship planned to circumnavigate the globe using solar power alone. The 30-metre ship will carry a permanent crew of two but can accommodate up to 50 for shorter trips - which, let's face it, includes almost anywhere.

PlanetSolar is being built in Kiel, Germany and, according to reports at, will be able to maintain an average speed of 10 knots (11.5mph) throughout its 120-day voyage.

The ship, a catamaran design, carries 470 square metres of photovoltaic solar cells capable of 22 per cent efficiency, although the battery technology has yet to be confirmed.

Solar not polar

The PlanetSolar team will be chasing the sun, taking a westerly course from Marseilles in France, through the Panama canal, across the Pacific before probably being hijacked on the approach to the Suez canal sometime in early 2011.

There are few technical details on the PlanetSolar's propulsion system, except for claims that it will be "silent and pollution-free".

But while the engine and battery systems are still a bit vaglue, the PlanetSolar system has its priorities right: the comic book rights to the journey have been picked up by French publishing house Cabrera in Paris, and a web TV simulcaster is already on board.

Bon voyage!

Via Wired.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.