Designing A Solar Powered Boat

This article attempts to draw attention on using solar energy for boats. It has systematically given the methods to design a solar-propelled and managed boat…

The aim of this article is to design a Solar Powered Boat for transport or tourists along the coast, in rivers, in the lakes to promote clean energy. In order to do this, a boat solely powered by electricity captured through solar energy will be designed for tourists or transport – and we’ll explore solar energy applications for marine vehicles rather than using traditional combustion engines.

The fuel crisis nowadays really brings anxiety to people who are using fuel engines like cars, boats and motorcycles. This crisis cannot be taken lightly because many people are affected with the current fuel depletion and unstable price. Many innovations made were made for overcoming this problem – such as hydrogen, electric car, Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV). Most of them focus on automobiles like cars. What about boats? Is there any innovation on this? The answer is ‘yes’, currently many innovations for this transportation are based on solar power and this innovation has started a long time ago. A solar power boat consists of solar panel, battery and electric motor. Based on this idea that leads to this article, it might give an answer to boat users on how they can reduce fuel dependency. A solar powered boat is an electrical boat with clean engine that uses either AC or DC motor. On the seas and inland waters as well as along their banks there are only a few connections to public electricity mains.

Literature Review

Yirebong S. Apkaba et al.: The author wrote that over the past few decades, the need for environment preservation consciousness and awareness has been developed worldwide, so he stated that, solar energy is prodigious renewable energy source, which has enormous energy existing as heat and light, convertible into electricity.

The authors research project is based on modeled Solar Power Tour Boat, code named ‘JJUYS01’. The boat is powered by energy processed from solar by minimizing environmental pollution and fuel cost. However, adverse weather conditions, backup power system integrated with the photovoltaic cell drives the boat to make the system more self-sustaining
and reliable.

In lieu of the global demand of green technology, it is clear that solar electric boat propulsion is an effective solution, which reduces CO2, NO2 and SO2 emission etc. The overall output of the project is to present a model for zero pollution system.

Shinde D. Tukaram et al.: In this paper, research directed towards importance of availability of uses of solar energy with an example. He found alternative to save conventional energy using solar energy. Author explored the solar application as an example of electric boat and solar boat.

The ordinary boat uses diesel fuel to run the generator of the boat, so found the use of new alternative energy to substitute the requirement of fuel. The solar electric boat is one of the alternatives that can possibly solve this problem. The solar electric boat cannot be used at night because of lack of sun light. However, this problem can be solved using rechargeable batteries that can supply power to electric motor of the solar boat during night.

Ahmad Nasirudin at el.: This paper presents a methodology to design a solar boat with the aim to determine the size of photovoltaic system with minimum cost.

Two stage optimization procedures have been proposed. First stage is simplified ship size optimization based on the existing ship design for obtaining minimum propulsion power by using golden search section algorithm. Second stage is optimization of PV system size for obtaining the no of photovoltaic (PV) module and battery with minimum cost by using simplex algorithm.

Comparing the existing ship, the optimum ship gives higher PV power and smaller battery capacity, which means that the optimum ship utilizes the more solar energy that and reduces the dependency to
grid energy.

Eyad Al Samadi et al.: This paper describes solar energy systems for boat, encompassing novel Water Piston Engine Propulsion.

The primary source of power is solar energy that powers an air compressor whose compressed air is used in the novel engine. The propulsion system is based on the novel engine called Water Piston Engine.

George J. Tsekouras et al.: The author explored “simplified method for the assessment of ship electric power systems’ operation cost reduction from energy storage and renewable energy sources integration.”

Worldwide concern about air quality and green house emission has led to stricter regulations in ship building industry. The large variety of plant components enables conformity with ship energy efficiency directives, not attainable from each component alone.

Design Specifications of Solar Boat

The design specifications of solar boat is segregated such as; a) Mechanical System Design b) Electrical System Design.

Mechanical System Design

  • Area of boat = 5.20 m x 2.30 m = 11.96 = 12 m2.
  • Area of Solar Panel = = 12 m * 0.70 m = 8.4 m2.
  • No. Persons = 20 = 2000kg
  • Weight of Each Panel = 18kg
  • Weight of Each Battery = 20kg
  • Weight of Empty Boat = 500kg including weight of the and allied structures.
  • Weight of Seating Arrangement = 3kg x 20 = 60kg
  • Steel Structure / Miscellaneous = 500kg
  • Inverter Weight = 50 kg

Total Weight of the Boat = 4874Kg or 5 tonne

Electrical System Design

Fig 1.Block Diagram of Solar System…

The electrical system is shown Fig.1. to drive the electrical load i.e. motor and lighting load, solar panel has to supply the required power for load. The electrical DC power supplied to inverter through charge controller and Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) module.

The electrical system is designed as per specifications initiated from load side i.e. electrical load to solar panel.

Electrical Load

  • A motor Load -20000W = 20kw = 26HP
  • Lighting Load – 2000W = 2kW
  • Miscellaneous Load – 1000W= 1kW
  • Total Electrical Load = 23000W =23kW
  • Working Hour of Ship 6 Hrs / Day

Energy Required for Ship= Power x Hrs/day

= 23kW x 6Hrs/Day

= 138 kWh / Day

Inverter Sizing

Assume Losses = 20% = 0.2

  • Inverter Loss = 138*0.2 = 27.6 kWh / Day
  • nput to Inverter = 27.6 + 138
  • = 165.6 kwh / Day
  • Inverter Sizing = Total Load Power = 23 kW
  • Inverter = 2 25 kw 25 kVA Selected
  • Battery Output = Inverter Input
  • Input To Inverter = 138 + 27.6 =165.6 kWh / Day

Assume –Depth of Discharge (DOD)

Battery Specifications Selected:

12v, 240Ah

DOD = 0.5 for —–Lead Acid

DOD = 0.9 for —–Li-ion

Battery Storage =  165.6 / 0.5 = 331.2 kWh/Day

Battery Storage =   165.6 / 0.9  = 184 kWh/Day

Li-ion Battery is selected for Marine Applications.

  • No. of Batteries Required = Battery Storage / 2.4 = 184 / 2.4 = 76.66

No. of Batteries Required 77

For One Day Storage 77 batteries are required

Assume Battery Losses -15%

  • Input To Battery = 165.6 x 0.15 +165.6

= 190.44 kwh/Day

Miscellaneous Sizing

Assume Losses in Electrical Circuits – 4%

Losses Electrical Circuits = 190.44 *0.04 = 7.61 kWh/Day

Panel Sizing –

  • Panel Output = 190.44 + 7.61 = 198.05 kWh/Day
  • Assume Panel Losses – 25% (Dust & Temperature)
  • Losses in Panel = 198.05 *0.25 = 49.51 kWh/Day

Energy Generated by Solar Panel = 198.05 + 49.51 = 514.08

~  247.56 kWh/Day

  • Assume Solar Radiation = kwh/ / Day = 5.5 kWh/m2 /Day Power of Solar Panel = 247.56 / 5.5 =  45.01 kw 45 kW
  • Suppose We take 250W Panel –Standard from Market

No. of Panels =  Power of Solar Panel / 250

i.e. 4500/250 = 18

Motor Selection

Brushless DC motor or BLDC motor or PMDC motor (the permanent magnet DC motor), it can provide much more efficiency than the other traditional DC motor. For marine applications PMDC motor is selected by taken into consideration of its numerous advantages.


  • For Tourist Transport
  • For Light Weight Material Transportation.


  • They are Environmentally-friendly.
  • They are Cost-efficient.
  • They Eliminate Sound Pollution.
  • They Continue Charging.
  • They eliminate the emission of hazardous gases.
  • They have a Relatively Less Environmental Impact.
  •  They are Highly Reliable.


Over the past few decades, the need for environment preservation consciousness and awareness has been felt worldwide. Solar energy is a prodigious renewable energy source, which has enormous energy existing as heat and light, convertible into electricity.

This article has presented the practical aspects of mechanical design as well electrical design more accurately and precisely.




Prof. Hemant J. Mane is an Assistant Professor at the Electrical Engineering Department in DBATU University, N K Orchid College of Engineering & Technology, Solapur.




Adarsh J. Mehta
is an Assistant Professor at the Electrical Engineering Department in DBATU University, N K Orchid College of Engineering & Technology, Solapur.

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