PlanetSolar is celebrating today as they complete the first round-the-world voyage of a boat powered only by solar.
The catamaran, covered with 38,000 SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWR) solar cells, covered 37,294 miles in 585 days - 19 months, after departing September 27, 2010.
The one-of-a-kind boat is nearly 102 feet long, almost 50 feet wide and 24-1/2 feet high. Flaps can fold out like wings to expose additional panels to sunlight creating a total solar area of 5,700 square feet.
The solar panels provide power for six blocks of lithium-ion batteries, which power the motor, water systems, lights - everything except a small propane cooking stove.
The crew, which started with six people, was reduced to four to show "it's not necessary to have a large crew to operate these technologies," says Raphaël Domjan, a Swiss engineer who conceived the project, designed the $24 millionboat and serves as its skipper.
PlanetSolar stayed close to the equator as long as possible to catch the best sunlight on the trip from Europe to New York and San Francisco to Australia, Saudi Arabia and back to Europe.
The boat pulled into Monte Carlo, Monaco, from where it first departed, and there will be three days of festivities, including a light show powered by its batteries.
"We have shown that we have the technologies as well as the knowledge to become sustainable and safeguard our blue planet," says expedition leader Raphael Domjan, who hails from Switzerland.
"Here we are at last, says Domjan. "For 8 years we have been working on achieving this world tour with solar energy.
Indeed, today we have yield 661 kWh, this is the absolute record since the start of this world tour."
In 2007, Sun21, a solar powered catamaran, completed the first transatlantic crossing by a solar-powered boat.