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First Solar Powered Ferry to Grace Indian Waters

Indian news providers India Climate Dialogue have reported that the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD) is to operate India’s first solar powered ferry on the backwaters of Alappuzha, Kerala.

This marks the arrival of India’s largest commercially operational solar-powered mode of transport.

Delivered by NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats, the 20-year lifecycle ferry will eliminate air and water pollution and will run silently while keeping operational expenditure low thanks to its reliance on solar power without any diesel fuel required at all. This also means that the ferry will be able to access new locations, such as ecologically sensitive areas and drinking water sources, where diesel boats cannot reach due to their noise and pollution.

Using a 20kW solar photovoltaic array, two electric motors will be powered via 50kWh Lithium batteries. The ferry will have an alternative power system for use in case of an emergency and the battery will be charged by plugging into the grid supplied power.

Although the cost of building the solar ferry is initially higher than building a single-hull steel ferry of the same capacity, it is commercially viable in the long-term as no fuel is required and the cost of building the ferry in India is approximately one-third of what it would cost to build in Europe. Compared to a conventional diesel-powered ferry, a solar-ferry will break-even in 4-6 years.

Furthermore, as this boat runs purely on solar power, it has been able to obtain a subsidy from the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). A 50% subsidy has been granted as recognition of the unique project and the first of its kind in India.

Sandith Thandasherry, CEO, NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats, voiced to India Climate News Dialogue that: “A solar-powered car is still far from commercial reality, but a large boat with huge surface area to install solar panels and lower power requirement seemed to be more realistic. We joined hands with other global organisations to make this shared vision a reality”.

According to Sandith, other government bodies in India and abroad have shown interest in NavAlt’s solar ferries, and he expects that at least 20 orders will be made within the next year or so.

The ferry is expected to be operational by the end of June and will operate in the 2.5 km Vaikkom-Thavanakkadavu route.

Read India Climate Dialogue’s feature here: http://indiaclimatedialogue.net/2016/05/30/solar-powered-ferry-debut-sunlit-kerala/

Image courtesy of India Climate Dialogue.

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