Raphaël Domjan - Planet Solar

During the IHT Clean Energy forum held in Barcelona we had the pleasure to meet Dominique Raphaël Domjan Initiator and Expedition Leader of PlanetSolar, the first Solar Boat to complete the world tour entirely on solar power. Dominique is a man of conviction, that made his dream come true with passion showing us that a different kind of sailing is possible with nowadays technology  and that we deserve to have a cleaner ocean. Here's eco-yacht's chat with him:


EY: Dominique you made the impossible possible, so in your experience, is it possible to built a class of recreational solar powered vessel?

Of course, definetely even if my experience with Tûranor was different. It was an expedition, a human challenge, if it was a recreational vessel it would at least need a emergency generator and and few sails and some hybrid propulsion in case of bad weather. A yacht has different needs but in general it can be done with nowadays available technology. In this aspect another interesting solution for generating power and propulsion is Solar Sailor that are computer manouvred composite sails developed in Australia that already have four ferry working in Hong Kong. Sun, wind and water will always be there is just a question of finding the best ways to get clean energy from them.

EY: What was the hardest moment during your two years sailing?

Actually it was in Abu Dabi, when we were approaching the port the waves and the wind were very strong pushing us at 30 knots against the getty that was just at 500 meters. Then one of our engine failed, we lost pitch control and we could not manouver in those condition so nobody could help us so we had to drop anchor very close to the rocks prepared to abandon the boat if the anchor wasn't holding.
Wasn't a pleasant night (laughs)

EY: So u didn't had any problem regarding all the solar technology?

Nothing, the only problem for girls is that they could not take the sun on deck because the solar cell gets around 70ºC hot during the day. Not much of a big deal as you can imagine.

EY: If you went out of power how long did it take to recharge fully the Planet Solar batteries?

With nice weather we had a capacity 1200 kW per hour and we could do 600 kW per day. So approximately two day i would say. And again with experience you learn, sometimes when the battery were full we had too much energy, and we couldn't use it, we wished we had halogen A/C installed to use it sometimes or maybe another good solution was plug it in and re-insert it in the city/harbor system. This is just the beginning we still have lots to learn.stc-SOL
EY: What was the best experience you can recall on board?

The people. Everywhere we went all locals greeted us always with food and fruits, we were always the first of a kind, we created a new passport that allowed us to navigate and stop in impossible and beautiful places (like the Vietnam coast), and the energy we had in every port was an amazing human experience. When you are doing something for the planet everybody wants just to help you.

EY: If u had to built a boat for you and your family what would be your choice?

Electric propeller is a very good combination with solar boats, it is silent, cannot hardly hear it. And of course can access anywhere is forbidden for big polluters.

EY: So is a Solar superyacht is possible with all these solutions?

Absolutely. Planet Solar costed around 50 million euros, considering its the first of its kind, having a solar superyacht wouldn't cost you more than a traditional one.
Of course the whole concept is different, we would have to study different solutions and maybe reduce some amenities etc but it surely can be done.
Most important of all is the high efficiency of everything, from material used, as light as possible, Hull shape and superstructure, Propellers  etc any energy you can save is energy you don't have to produce with cells.

EY: So, what do you think needs to be change in the yachting industry to move faster towards these new possibilities?

The problem with yachting is the protective attitude of the industry, they don't want to change, they are afraid of innovation and plus the certifications too don´t help. We worked with Germanischer lloyd and it was complicated because if they have no experience in your system, it can be very time and money consuming and you can end up like us, weighting 20 tons more form the original project in order to fulfill their requirements.

EY: What is the commercial future for your vessel?

Planet Solar is now in La ciotat for heavy maintnance, after that we will evaluate all options. One of them is serve as a ferry in the Galapagos islands, we observed that we could easily navigate between island at night and cover 50 miles and during the daily visits recharge the batteries for the next day and so on, with no single liter of gasoline used. Another option too is use it as a diving boat in the Red sea but we haven't decide yet. For now we only know that in 2013 we will bring a smaller solar boat to sail on the Titicaca lake in Perú to break the record of the highest altitude a solar boat has ever been.

Again making the impossible possible…When will be our turn?

More infos at Planet Solar website

Image credit :raphaeldomjan.com

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