Tonga welcomes record-breaking solar ship

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29 April 2011 The world's largest solar-powered ship will arrive in Tonga today, en route a pioneering expedition around the globe.

The Swiss-owned MS TÛRANOR PlanetSolar is due at Queen Salote Wharf by mid-afternoon, after a two week delay in Bora Bora due to technical issues.

The Prime Minister of Tonga Lord Tu'ivakano will host a welcome dinner for the crew and special guests later in the evening.

"It is completely amazing to sail the solar boat. We came from Monaco only on the energy of the sun. It's good to have a vision and see it actually happen and to show people the power of solar energy," said PlanetSolar project founder and crewmember Raphaël Domjan.

Mr Domjan was in Tonga earlier in the month to attend the nation's first Sustainable Energy Expo. His presentation at the Fa'onelua Convention Centre showed how the MS TÛRANOR's 4-person crew left Monaco last September, navigating more than 20,000 km at sea and counting.

With an upper-deck covered by up to 38,000 solar panels supplying 93.5 KW (127.0 hp) of photo-voltaic (PV) power, the 31metre-long catamaran has so far sailed across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and now traversing the Pacific Ocean. Stopovers were made at a number of major cities including Miami, Cancun, Panama and Bora Bora.

"We want to share the boat with the people of Tonga and share the vision that the power of solar energy is not just theoretical but very practical. The boat is usable," added PlanetSolar representative Dr Luka Müller-Studer.

The public can view the ship up close from the Western dock of Queen Salote Wharf today around 3pm.

An official day-long program on Saturday will involve a visit by the crew to St Andrew's High School to donate an 8KW PV solar system worth 40,000 Euro, which will supply electricity to the school buildings.

Groups of high school and tertiary students will also be treated to exclusive tours of the ship.

The MS TÛRANOR will depart Saturday evening for Noumea, New Caledonia. The vessel is due in Brisbane by the end of May before continuing on to Manila, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mumbai, and Abu Dhabi. The route will take them across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, before heading back to the Mediterranean.

ENDS

Issued by the: Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku'alofa, 2011. (Photo: Taulava Pulini)

Last Updated ( Saturday, 23 July 2011 00:02 )  

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