In India, the idea of using alternative energy sources in transport sector is gaining more and more attention. The government is currently expecting 30 per cent of the electric vehicles on road by 2030 and has made plans and policies to attain this goal. Thrust to support electric vehicles on road is a positive sign, but in reality, the electric vehicles are not reducing pollution the way we think. In the case of electric vehicles pollution is shifted to power plants which is dominated by coal.
If this paradigm shift in plan is to reduce the pollution, the use of renewable energy to run vehicles should be encouraged. Water transportation always has advantages over road transportation as it is the cheapest mode. It can transport in large quantities as there is not much size restriction on water.
Renewable energy sources can be utilised to its maximum only in marine mode of transportation. Unlike the electric vehicles on road, solar boats derive more than 75 per cent of its energy from sun and only rest is taken from grid. This low dependency on grid means more eco-friendly.
A transformation is now happening in Indian maritime industry. In 2017, NavAlt Solar & Electric Boats based in Kerala successfully launched country’s first solar ferry that can carry more than 75 passengers comfortably. “Aditya” its name simply denotes “Sun” what else it should be when its powered by sun’s harnessed energy through its solar panels. Completing 2 long years of its successful voyage on January 2019, transported more than 600,000 people, saved 38,000 litres of diesel along with preventing 104 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
The operational cost of solar-powered vessels is less than US$ 3 for a day and has proven to be negligible in comparison to those powered by traditional fuel. Based on its success, the Kerala government has ordered three more solar ferries of 75 to 100 passenger capacity and have decided to phase out the old rickety boats over a period of next 5 years. Other States like Goa, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana have similar plans for solar powered marine transit.
Fishing segment is facing an alarming situation which needs immediate attention. Skyrocketing fuel price and CO2 emission points a question about the feasibility of existing fishing boats. About 1.13 tonnes of CO2 are released per tonne of live weight of marine fish netted. Energy conservation is now priority because of the increasing fuel price which is the major input for motorised fishing. Solar propulsion is the most advanced and efficient technology for this application. We are now researching on building new solar fishing boats understanding its significant potential and strategic importance in transforming the Indian fishing industry.
Solar-powered Ro-Ro (Roll on, Roll off) ferries is another interesting project on anvil. This vessel will operate fully on solar power or electricity, providing an emission-free urban transport solution. The electric Ro-Ro ferries will recharge their batteries during the unloading and loading of passengers and vehicles. The vessels will recharge their own batteries using an on-board diesel generator in case of any emergency requirements.
Solar-powered propulsion can be extended to marine transportation segments like harbour tugs pilot boats, coastal barges etc. The possibilities for clean eco-friendly public and personal marine transportation is very vast in country like India. As the industry is now considering going solar, it is now time for the government to take necessary initiatives in the marine industry for a faster adoption of solar propulsion.
Advantages of solar powered boats
Harmful emissions of gases like sulphur, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide can be completely avoided with efficient and eco-friendly boats. Solar-powered boats are transforming the water transportation industry by reducing water pollution due to oil spills.
With negligible operational cost due to absence of fuel, solar ferry break even period is as low as four years. The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO includes the initial cost, energy cost and the maintenance cost) is very low as they have a very low operating cost
All solar powered boats manufactured by NavAlt provide the passengers and crew a degree of pleasure which they expect during every travel. The boats have well-designed spacious interiors, ergonomic cushioned seats to reduce tiredness and entertainments like TV, music system etc
The passenger and crew have the basic right to expect to travel and work in a comfortable environment. The absence of the conventional IC engines provides the passengers and crew an absolute sound free ride along with the less vibration and no smell of fuel.
Safety standards in NavAlt’s solar boats
Safety & stability
NavAlt follows higher standards in safety and stability. The ferries are designed and built as a catamaran for higher margin of stability. They are designed for overcrowding by 100 per cent meeting all stability conditions.
Marine grade Lithium batteries
NavAlt boats are equipped with efficient marine grade lithium-iron-phosphate batteries. Batteries conform to IEC 62133:2012 Standards and IP56 ingress protection. Battery ventilation is designed to ensure life cycle operation with temperature higher than 30 degrees by monitoring charge and air cooling by PLC.
Reliable electric motors
The boats are equipped with a rugged and reliable marine electric propulsion motors.
NavAlt’s solar ferries are equipped with two independent motors and battery bank for 100 per cent redundancy. Under normal conditions the motors run at 50 per cent of load. During an emergency the boat can be navigated with only one motor on operation.
Light, efficient hull
The boats are lightweight due to the usage of lighter and stronger materials like GRP and aluminium. Efficient structure design and lightweight characteristics generates lesser drag in turn enable the boats to be completely propelled by solar power.
Despite the fuel gauge used to measure the fuel status in conventional boats, NavAlt introduced advanced Dashboard Monitoring System on board which provides an instant snapshot of vessel’s key performance indicators like battery SoC, battery temperature, battery voltage which helps to monitor and identify the current status of boat for a safe voyage
All NavAlt boats have three levels of warning states displayed for critical components in terms of temperature, state of charge, voltage, current, sensor failure to protect the system. First level is usually information as precursor to second level. The next level forces a slowdown and the third level forces immediate shutdown of necessary equipment to protect it.
All the operating parameters of the boats are recorded and send to NavAlt’s server from where the technical experts can gather data and monitor the performance of the boat. The latest software updates will be pushed remotely to optimise the performance and rectifies the existing digital flaws if any. Battery have the facilities for individual cell monitoring.