Halifax waterfront home to largest solar ship of its kind

Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - If you head to the Halifax waterfront this weekend you’ll see a ship that’s catching rays in a different way.

A crew member operates a winch on the MS Turanor Planet Solar, the largest solar powered boat in the world.

The MS Turanor Planet Solar, the world’s largest solar powered ship, is currently docked on the waterfront. With a top deck almost entirely covered by shiny black solar panels and a unique catamaran design, the Planet Solar quickly grabs the attention of passersby.

“This boat weighs about 100 tonnes, and if you consider this is moving very smoothly without any engine, any gasoline, only the sun, it’s a bit fantastic,” said captain Gérard D’Aboville at a media event on Thursday.

At sea, the ship’s solar panels can extend over its sides, which provides greater surface area to absorb sunlight and charge its batteries. On cloudy days, the Planet Solar’s 8.5 tonnes of batteries can keep it moving for up to 72 hours.

The ship flies a Switzerland flag, as it’s currently on a research expedition conducted by the University of Geneva. It wasn’t originally constructed for scientific research.

“It’s open concept (design) made it pretty easy to integrate the scientific instruments that we needed,” said Jerome Kasparian.

He is onboard the Planet Solar studying phytoplankton along the Gulf Stream.

Phytoplankton are small organisms that develops according to light from the sun and nutrients from the bottom of the ocean. Kasparian hopes to find out how the Gulf Stream’s warm water affects these organisms.

Halifax makes a good location for the boat’s first Canadian stop because it is relatively close to the Gulf Stream.

The four scientists and five crew members on board the Planet Solar began their expedition in France and will finish in Norway.

The ship leaves Halifax for St. John’s early next week.

Organizations: University of Geneva

Geographic location: Gulf Stream, Switzerland, France Norway

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