World’s largest solar boat charts course for ancient Greece

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MS Turanor PlanetSolar made headlines in 2012 when it travelled around the world powered solely by the sun.

Today, the world's largest solar powered catamaran basks in the Greek waters preparing to assist the Terra Submersa archaeological project co-organised by the University of Geneva, the Neuchatel Latenium, the Swiss Archaeological School in Greece, Greece's Service for Underwater Antiquities and the Greek Centre for Maritime Research.

The Submersa reserach project aims to study the seabed around Argolic Gulf in the Aegean Sea off the east coast of the Peloponnese, and the nearby Frachthi cave hoping to discover traces of the first European settlements in the prehistoric era.

Professor Laurenz Baumer, head of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Geneva, said the sea level rose and fell many times over the millennia, while specifically during the prehistoric period the sea level was considerably lower than today. Where today is water was a valley. The Frachthi cave, archaeologists believe, was inhabited for thousands of years and may have been the site of one of the first prehistoric European settlements.

At first, scientists will use tools adapted to the MS Turanor PlanetSolar to reconstitute the terrain during the prehistoric era. Later, divers will carry out underwater excavations using hydraulic suction equipment.

Archaeological fieldwork in the Argolic Gulf assisted by the solar catamaran is expected to last 12 days, although the Swiss-Greek research cooperation will last for years.

Before excavations officially begin on August 11, MS Turanor PlanetSolar has grasped the opportunity to tour the Greek waters and bask in the Greek sun. The solar boat is currently undertaking a tour, visiting the ports of Eretria, Athens and Nafplio and is open to visitors who wish to learn more about the work that archaeologists will carry out in the Argolic Gulf and the various applications of solar PV technology.

pv magazine visited MS Turanor PlanetSolar over the weekend when it was docked at the port of Eretria, on the island of Evia. Locals browsed the vessel, curiously exploring its interior and solar PV filled exterior.

The 35-meter long boat was built in Germany with funding from Immo Stroeher, a German entrepreneur and advocate for solar technologies. It is covered by 512 square meters of solar photovoltaic panels at about 100 KW installed capacity. At night, when the sun doesn't shine the boat is powered by two lithium-ion batteries stored in the ship's hulls and weighting together 8.5 tons. Once fully charged, the boat can run on batteries for 72 hours. Today, MS Turanor is mostly used assisting scientific research projects of the University of Geneva.

More information on the voyages of the MS Turanor PlanetSolar can be found here.

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