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Solar-powered boat completes the Great Loop – A first

by Peter Janssen 2 Dec 16:40 UTC
Solar-powered boat © Jim Rhodes, Rhodes Communications

A homemade 48-foot trimaran running entirely on solar panels, batteries and an all-electric Torqueedo propulsion system just completed the Great Loop. Jim Greer, the 75-year-old former filmmaker and captain of the boat, says it's the first time a boat has done the Loop entirely under solar power.

"With solar panels, batteries and Torqueedo electric motors, we were able to complete our travel days without any use of fossil fuels or plugging into marina electric hook-ups when we docked," Greer said. "We don't have a backup generator or power cords in case of emergency, and that's the adventure of it."

Greer, who once hung out with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters in the '60s, named the boat RA, after the sun god of ancient Egypt. The route took him from his home in New Port Richey, Florida, up the East Coast, the Hudson, the Erie Canal, the Great Lakes, and then down the Mississippi and across the Gulf of Mexico and back home.

The boat usually ran at 5 mph, Greer said, to optimize the battery capacity; it once hit a top speed of 10.7 mph. He usually covered 30 miles a day, although RA had a single run of 142 miles in 42 hours across the Gulf of Mexico.

RA is powered by one Torqueedo Cruise 10 kW motor and two smaller Torqueedo Cruise 4 kW outboards. They draw power from two banks of batteries – one with four 12V AGM batteries in a 48V configuration, and the other with eight of the 12V AGM batteries, also in a 48V configuration. They were charged from an array of 20 245-W solar panels on the cabintop.

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