Solar-Powered Ferries

The Solar Sailor front diagonal view. Photo courtesy of Solar Sailor

The Solar Sailor front diagonal view. Photo courtesy of Solar Sailor

In November, Hong Kong’s harbor will see four solar-powered ferries.  On a sunny day, 3/4 of ferries’ energy needs will be met by solar power.

On a “typical sunny day” they will operate mainly using the sun’s energy, and also with liquid petroleum gas…The technology could cut in half carbon-dioxide output on a typical urban ferry route, Solar Sailor said on its Web site…The ferries were purchased by the Hong Kong Jockey Club as part of a 350 million Hong Kong dollar ($45 million) drive to make the city more environmentally conscious. The boats will be used for services between the club’s Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course and Sai Kung pier, it said in September on its Web site.  Solar Sailor’s so-called hybrid marine power, a sea-going equivalent to Toyota Motor Corp.’s Prius car, according to Chief Executive Officer Robert Dane, can save ferry operators $6 million in fuel costs over a typical 15-year lifespan, the company says. Even so, recent development of the technology makes it hard to compete with the more established diesel motor industry, Dane said.

Make sure you checkout our previous post (Hybrid Ships…R/V Prius?) on hybrid ships that included Solar Sailor. Also make sure you check out Solar Sailor’s website for more photos and videos.

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

7 comments on “Solar-Powered Ferries
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  3. How fast does the ferry go? I understand that this will be the norm in the future, but this does not appear to be enough solar panels to get the ferry moving very quickly. I understand that it has a carbon-energy based backup system, but why would an owner want to use the petroleum when he can use the sun and save money?

    Also, I do not like the comparison to the Prius. The Jetta, which runs on diesel, gets better mileage for the emissions it produces.

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  5. I always thought ship engineering would be aiming to make a boat as light as possible. These panels seem superfluous weight to me.

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