In-Depth: Tûranor PlanetSolar

A big green vision for the deep blue sea

Every so often, your average citizen does something remarkable. But dreaming big and actualizing that dream don’t often happen unless you’re Sir Richard Branson or James Cameron. In the case of Switzerland’s Raphael Domjan, the dream has become a reality no one could have forseen. The Tûranor PlanetSolar was birthed from a vision by Domjan. In 2008, with a background in electrical engineering and an active spirit of adventure (having experience as a pilot, paramedic and mountaineer), Mr. Domjan began to plan his life’s desire to be the first to circumnavigate the world on a purely solar-powered ship. What started as an overwhelming obstacle was soon overcome by his insatiable thirst for this monumental adventure.

More details, photos and video after the jump.

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Domjan began his quest by both seeking and obtaining the involvement and investment of M. Immo Ströher, a German businessman who took great interest in the project. Mr. Ströher, himself, possessed a longstanding background in solar technology, so his participation was fueled by passions similar to Mr. Domjan’s. Soon enough, the two were working together with designer Craig Loomes of New Zealand to build a single-hull light carbon catamaran of extraordinary size. Using modern shipbuilding technology, as well as testing in aerodynamics and hydrodynamics to make the ship as efficient as possible, Loomes lent his experience to create a truly unique vessel. In a short two-year period, the Tûranor PlanetSolar was created in the shipyards of Kiel, Germany’s Knierim Yacthbau. The Tûranor PlanetSolar stands as a distinct seacraft that measures 35 meters wide and 23 meters wide in full deployment.


The Tûranor PlanetSolar is powered solely from 537 square meters of photovoltaic panels strewn across its expansive deck, making it look like a cathedral window-shaped mirrored dance floor. But this dance floor is propelled by four permanent magnet synchronous electrical motors, two at 60kW and two at 10kW, that together provide a top speed of 16 mph. Though that doesn’t seem especially fast, keep in mind that the ship’s weight is 85 metric tons. This ultra efficient set up can easily move a four person crew and up to 40 passengers in quiet seagoing comfort. The shape of the craft lends to its efficiency, cutting through the wind with relative ease for a ship this size, and the Tûranor PlanetSolar is on record as the largest solar powered ship in the world.

The shape of the craft lends to its efficiency, cutting through the wind with relative ease for a ship this size…

Domjan and crew embarked on their world tour in September of 2010 from beautiful Monaco, heading westward. The ship has made key stops in Miami, Cancun, Brisbane, Tahiti, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Abu Dhabi and recently completed their long and storied journey after 584 days of circumnavigation, returning to their point of origin. After a period of docking and maintenance the ship will be used for luxury yachting, as well as for exclusive cruises. The Tûranor PlanetSolar has indeed reached its visionary’s goal of making an exclamation on environmental conservation, world travel and technological creativity, and the world has surely taken notice. Tûranor PlanetSolar obtained two world records in the process: the fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by a solar-powered ship, and the farthest distance of travel by a solar vehicle.

Whether you’re a petrolhead or treehugger, PlanetSolar is undoubtedly a colossal achievement worthy of applause. Either way, here’s hoping we can score a stow away ride back to Tahiti.

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