The Rise of Solar-Powered Yachts With Unlimited Range

  • Enough solar panels to produce about 50-kW of power per day.

  • Starting in 2010, the vessel Solar-wave 46′ logged more than 12,000 nautical miles in five years, exclusively under solar power.

  • Tesla Motors now supplies the company with high-energy density power packs.

In the past couple of decades, the world has been shifting towards renewable clean energy. Solar power is definitely on the rise and is being used to replace most older ways of generating energy. Today, Silent Yachts have may started the norm of the future of yachting.

Michael Köhler after sailing 60,000 nautical miles on the world’s oceans knew what he liked, loathed, needed and could jettison while at sea. He stated that the frequent need to run the engines when it wasn’t possible to log miles under sail is one the most uncomfortable thing to do while on the high seas.

He also described that the traveller is at the mercy of the vessel’s fuel-capacity. While the power plant or generator is running, the fumes, constant noise and vibration can wear you down as much as sporty conditions and merciless sun. (And the need for maintenance increases.) Unlike every other yachtsmen, he decided to do something about it, and tied up his boat.

Köhler was definitely in luck because significant technological advances in solar panels and energy storage were coming online, and systems were becoming available at greatly reduced costs. He then outfitted a 46-foot custom yacht with enough solar panels to produce about 50-kW of power per day with the help of his wife Heike, who is also a seasoned captain in her own right.

Starting in 2010, the vessel Solar-wave 46 logged more than 12,000 nautical miles in five years, exclusively under solar power. The sojourn included the Black Sea, the Aegean and the Med, and all kinds of conditions, including sun, rain, snowfall and ice. Through it all, the solar technology held up. Köhler explained that Spending less energy was a key factor, and by optimizing the hull to match our propulsion system, they saw [significantly] higher performance and less energy consumption.

Equipped with what they learned on their several-year sojourn, the Köhlers realized the concept they had envisioned was plausible—one can cruise for thousands of miles on a well-equipped vessel using solar power exclusively. So, they decided to start a company and build the type of boat they like best.

Köhler returned recently from a visit to the boatbuilding facility in China to check on his new launches—the first two hulls of the 64-foot Silent-Solar wave series. Currently, Silent Yachts has six boats in production: two 64s, and two each of 55- and 75-foot models. All the boats are Bluewater catamarans equipped for serious cruising with home-style appliances that are also powered by solar. Because they are semi custom builds, each is slightly different, depending on the owner’s desires.

It was amazing to learn that Silent Yachts uses a proprietary propulsion system, considering the availability of reliable and proven all-electric systems. Nicknames the Silent System, the electric motors allow an average cruise of 6 to 8 knots (and a top hop of about 10 knots), with a virtually unlimited range across the entire lineup.

There are two important factors which make this possible, the first being Silent Yachts’ constant upgrades to the latest-generation lithium batteries. -Tesla Motors now supplies the company with high-energy density power packs. There’s also an emergency diesel generator set aboard (Köhler calls it the Range Extender) that can charge the batteries and run systems during extended periods of foul weather.

Silent yachts have made a big-time breakthrough in the luxury yacht world which is definitely the future of yachting.


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