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Solar Ships: Are We Ready Yet?

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Solar Ships: The tipping point for large-scale adoption of electric vehicles is around the corner.

Solar Ships: Interest in solar energy is on a high. The Indian Railways has taken initiatives to harness renewable power through solar roof panels, to run the electrical appliances on the trains, thereby reducing fuel costs and contributing to a cleaner environment.

A major transformation is witnessed in the land transport sector. The question is no longer ‘if’, rather ‘when’. Experts differ only on the year of this large-scale shift – anywhere from 2022 to 2030.

A similar transformation is awaiting the shipping industry. Ten years ago, a large RORO vessel, Auriga Leader, was launched by NYK Shipping. This ship used solar power to reduce the generator load for lighting. A few years back PlanetSolar, the largest solar boat in the world, circumnavigated the globe.

India’s first solar-powered passenger ferry, Aditya, has been operating successfully for the past 20 months in the backwaters of Kerala. The IWAI (Inland Waterways Authority of India) has launched pilot e-solar passenger boats along the Ganga at Varanasi.

Students from Kashmir have developed a prototype of a 2-seater boat that can ferry tourists on the Dal lake in Srinagar.

The operational costs of solar powered vessels have proven to be negligible in comparison to those powered by traditional fuel. Financial viability studies ought to compare life-cycle costs of the boats -diesel versus solar power. As an incentive, the comparable subsidy can be offered for CAPEX of solar ships.

With a long coastline and ample source of solar energy, the time is ripe to propel solar powered coastal and fishing boats. Tariff of Solar energy is now competitive and there has been a huge improvement in battery storage capacities as well. With the right financial model and incentives, solarisation of ships can be a viable alternative.

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