Raphael Domjan and the Journey of the MSTûranor PlanetSolar
Founded by the 39-year-old Swiss national Raphael Domjan, the Tûranor PlanetSolar began her voyage around the world on September 27, 2010. The mission of this solar-powered catamaran and its Captain is to show that currently renewable energy technology is both dependable and efficient. Measuring 102 feet long, 50 feet wide, the upper surface of the PlanetSolar is completely covered by over 5,500 square feet of solar generating panels. The solar cells on this generator were designed by SunPower and have a 50% higher efficiency than traditional solar cells, with a conversion efficiency of 23%. Domjan came up with the idea for this project by reading Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne; being both an avid outdoorsman and environmentalist, as well as an electrical engineer, Domjan was inspired to make the same journey, only his journey would have the added purpose of showing the world that it is possible to use renewable energy in the place of fossil fuels such as oil, and that the technology to do so efficiently and reliably already exists. So Domjan set about finding partner to work with to design a ship that could be used to prove his idea to theentire world.
After his initial conceptualization of the idea in 2004, Domjan partnered up with M. Immo Stroher, a German businessman with a long-held interest as well as extensive experience in the area of solar technology. Along with Craig Loomes, a boat designer from New Zealand who is one of the best and most inventive boat designers in the world, the two entrepreneurs spent two years designing and building a ship that would allow them to show the world that motor vehicles can run without the use of any fossil fuels, using exclusively clean and renewable energy sources. The final result of their efforts was a catamaran with a futuristic appearance, resembling an aircraft more than a ship when seen from an aerial view. The Planet Solar is made with a very light yet durable carbon with a sandwich-style construction and uses what is known as “wave-piercing” technology, in which the boat actually navigates thru the waves, rather than riding the waves the way conventional ships do. This design is significantly more efficient and energy saving.
Upon the completion of their project, Domjan began the next step of his adventure: assembling the six-person crew that would accompany him on the PlanetSolar around the world beginning in Monaco and stopping at major ports along the way to show off the results of his mission and promote the concept of using renewable energy sources such as solar energy. By circumnavigating the entire globe, Domjan and his crew plan to prove that it is possible to transport both goods and people by sea in a way that is friendly to the environment and using clean, renewable energy sources such as solar power. Domjan’s intent is for the PlanetSolar to be a flagship that carries a message about renewable energy sources and how they can be used efficiently in various applications around the world. Domjan and Stroher, the boat’s owner, also expect that the solar-powered catamaran will be a source of “worldwide economic return” by prompting further development by boat builders as well as component manufacturers, generating further business prospects and jobs in the renewable energy area of the world economy. Domjan is quoted as saying, “We want to show that we already have the technology, the knowledge and the means to change to sustainable energy sources. And we are all responsible for this change.” Ströher adds, “We want to prove through our project that apart from static power generation, solar energy can also provide solar mobility. In this way, sustainable energy technology will be able to make a decisive contribution to climate protection in the transport sector.”
On their way around the world, the PlanetSolar’s first ports of call included Miami, Cancun, Panama, and the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are a natural paradisethat is unlike anyplace else in the whole world, making conservation extremely important to the area. Sustainable energy development plays an especially important role in this region. During its stopover on the islands, the PlanetSolar crew will met with politicians and other government officials who are activly involved in the area of environmental issues and nature conservancy. After leaving the Galapagos Islands, the PlanetSolar continued its journey stopping over in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, then continued to sail eastward to Bora Bora, Tonga, Brisbane Australia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong, with a 15-day stop in Singapore to perform required maintenance on the ship. During these stopovers, the PlanetSolar was the center of a variety of organized activities designed to publicize the ship and its mission, showing the residents of those cities the power the ship has ship and how well it was able to operate without the use of any of the conventional sources of power such as oil or other fossil fuels.
In order to accomplish their expedition, the crew of the PlanetSolar has to continually optimize their route to maintain the maximum amount of sunlight exposure. This has led to the development of new forecasting and routing software, a task that was accomplished in partnership with the company Meteo France. Sailing as close as possible to the Equator to maximize their exposure to the sun, Raphael Domjan and the crew of the PlanetSolar will complete their year-and-a-half-long journey on May 4, 2012, after sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, then the Panama Canal and on to the Pacific Ocean, across the Indian Ocean, then finally across the Suez Canal before reaching the Mediterranean and returning to their port of origin in Monaco. Upon returning to Monaco, there will be an official welcoming ceremony for Raphael Domjan and the crew of the PlanetSolar, and Domjan will relay the story of their adventure around the world. As an additional demonstration of the power of renewable energy, the batteries on PlanetSolar and the energy that has been collected during the course of the 19-month journey will be used to provide the power for a concert performed by the Swiss rock band Sonalp, as well as a solar light show. At this final stop of the PlanetSolar’s worldwide journey, having sailed almost 60,000 kilometers across all the oceans of the world with the exclusive use of solar energy, Domjan and his crew will be joined by project partners and politicians, as well and the media and the general public, who will all have a chance to come out and join in the celebration of this unique adventure, having proven as they hoped to that there is a huge potential for the use of solar energy in the future of the world’s economy.