"Solar Boat” of Ankara*
Engin Kıran is a physicist at Hacettepe University. He designed the "Solar Boat" which was launched on Eymir Lake at the beginning of June. Based on this design, the boat had been built in early 2014 in Ankara.
* Faik Uyanık, Ankara, 25 June 2014
New Horizons - Eymir Lake is in properties of Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, and it is one of the best protected lakes in Turkey. Also it is a recreation space in terms of its biological diversity. During the tour we made with the "Solar Boat", Engin Kıran from Clean Energy Initiative became our captain.
The Clean Energy Initiative, whose president is also a physicist, Prof. Demir İnan, works for ensuring wide use of implementations on clean and sustainable energy sources in Turkey.
The solar energy transportation vehicles are not as common as it might be thought. According to Engin Kıran, other energy resources are also added, just in case, to most vehicles that are equipped with solar panels. However, there are only two rows in our "Solar Boat" aside from the solar energy. Thus, the number of boats like ‘Solar Boat’ supported by UNDP's GEF Small Grants Program is very few.
The boat can be fully charged in four hours in a clear and sunny weather. The boat can work for four hours with its four hour-long charging. Moreover, in an outdoor trip, the boat uses the solar energy it produces instantly instead of using the energy in its storage and meanwhile it can keep the energy it stored for the sunless conditions or for the evening.
One might not say that "Solar Boat" is a fast boat. In fact, this prototype boat's speed is 10 kilometers per hour. But this is an informed choice because the engine which will be placed to make the boat faster might shorten its sailing time. This will also require a bigger solar panel. Thus, an engine chosen directly proportional to the solar panel and boat's size brings along an optimum speed for the boat.
As the boat works silently, it does not disturb underwater world. It even "makes less noise than the aquatic birds living on the lake".
The boat is also ideal for a journey on the lake. Sustainable tourism investors and municipalities can make an environmentally friendly and zero carbon emission contribution for touristic regions or urban life with this boat which costs 18,000 USD.
However, it must be noted that solar energy boats can also be used with different panels and alternative engines for harder conditions. A boat, which is named PlanetSolar and which was built in Germany had huge solar panels and it became the first water carriage with solar energy to tour the world in 2012. Thus, the potential is huge.
Solar energy's efficiency
The electricity acquired from solar energy is much more efficient than of fossil fuels or than types of electricity that are acquired in other ways such as thermal plants.
For example, a fuel vehicle can convert only a little part of the potential energy that can acquired from a unit of petroleum (approximately 28 percent). However, for a vehicle working with electric energy, the conversion percentage of a unit of energy used instead of fuel is much higher (approximately 85 percent).
According to Engin Kıran, solar panels are produced from materials suitable for recycling. Thus the "Solar Boat" which is produced from a big amount of aluminum, has nearly no carbon footprint. The solar panel does not have to be on the top of the boat and the boats without panels which sail short distances can charge themselves at the stations built on the shores. Hence, they can continuously go on the defined routes, Kıran says.
This means that in the near future, the solar panels built at shores can be a clean and important alternative for public transportation for cities which have a coast on lakes and seas.
To understand the situation better, operating costs of boats that work with conventional fuel engines and of boats that work with solar energy are needed to be compared. Above all, in order to start the engine working with fuel, fuel should be bought and engine oil, water and general engine maintenance should be provided.
On the other hand, solar panels used in solar energy boats last for 20 years. The batteries last approximately for 4 years. Cost of four new batteries is only about 300 dollars.
Most importantly, solar energy boat does not require fuels and it can be operated for free.
- Solar energy boat built by Clean Energy Initiative was donated to METU and it will be used in METU Biology Department's underwater studies.
- Working silently, the boat does not disturb underwater world, it even "makes less noise than the aquatic birds living on the lake".
- An opportunity to observe underwater with a seeker is offered.
- Until today, The Clean Energy Initiative has developed projects such as acquiring the hot water that hundreds of people need to shower in disaster areas, acquiring clean water from sea water with solar energy, lighting of bus stops, streets and public buildings with solar panels, bicycles that operate with solar energy.
- Gökmen Argun, National Coordinator of GEF SGP which supports the project says that the project is one of a kind in Turkey.
For 20 years, GEF SGP (Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme) supports small-budget projects which are developed by non-governmental organizations about biodiversity, climate change and land degradation. SGP, which is a joint programme of UNEP, UNDP and World Bank, has supported 236 projects so far.