PlanetSolar was built at the Knierim Yachtbau shipyard in Kiel, Germany. (Picture courtesy of Sascha Klahn/
PlanetSolar was built at the Knierim Yachtbau shipyard in Kiel, Germany. (Picture courtesy of Sascha Klahn/

The PlanetSolar catamaran is fitted with more than 500 m2 of solar modules. One of the biggest challenges of the project has been to store enough solar energy so that the vessel can maintain its progress even in darkness. To achieve this, use has been made of the latest lithium-ion batteries, which weigh around 11 tonnes in total. 

To minimise consumption of energy, it was necessary to save as much weight as possible in the boat structures by employing modern lightweight construction technology. Through the use of carbon fibre composite in the hull structure, the requirements for excellent mechanical properties combined with very low weight were successfully met.

The four electric motors are driven by a massive power supply and provide a maximum output of 120 kW. The catamaran is moved and steered by two large propellers, which are also produced from carbon fibre materials and fitted on the end of each float. The propellers can be independently controlled to steer the craft on the desired course. The maximum speed is approximately 14 knots.

PlanetSolar‘s virtually silent and pollution-free circumnavigation of the globe is scheduled to take about 160 days. Several stops along the equator are planned to give a wider international audience the opportunity to learn more about this unique project.

The giant catamaran is currently being finished in the Knierim Yachtbau shipyard at Kiel in northern Germany, and initial tests have already been successfully completed following the christening and launch of the vessel on 31 March 2010. But before it can set off on its voyage around the world in early 2011, a considerable amount of detailed work and trials have still to be carried out to guarantee the success of the project.

This article is an extract from the feature Carbon composite materials in modern yacht bulding, published in the July/August issue of Reinforced Plastics magazine. Read the full article here.