In 2004, a Swiss by the name of Raphaël Domjan had a crazy idea: to sail around the world on a boat powered only by solar energy, a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the potential of renewable energy. This dream became a reality in 2008. Domjan met Immo Stroeher, a German entrepreneur, an advocate for solar technologies who had solid experience in the field. Together, the two men combined ideas and funds to make this idea a reality.
Construction on the boat began at the end of 2008 in Kiel, Germany. It took almost 18 months before MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the largest solar boat ever constructed, was ready to put to sea.
First world tour using solar energy
On 27 September 2010, the solar vessel left the port of Monaco, returning there 584 days later, on 4 May 2012. The boat and her crew crossed the Atlantic, the Panama Canal, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, the Suez Canal, before finally returning to the Mediterranean Sea. The 52 ports of call on this world tour included unique opportunities to meet the public and to promote solar energy.
The success of this first world tour whose sole source of power supply was solar energy proved that photovoltaic technologies had matured and become efficient. It shows that we now have the resources, the knowledge and technologies required to reduce our dependence on fossil energy.
The Mediterranean tour
After crossing the blue planet, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar participated during the summer of 2012 in a tour of the Mediterranean.
As for the crew, Raphaël Domjan, the project leader decided to leave the adventure to focus completely on his foundation’s activities which meant that a brand new crew, led by Eric Dumont, departed to conquer the seas.
As an ambassador of photovoltaic energy, the vessel continued her travels spreading her message on the efficiency of energy from the sun. The vessel stopped at large cities such as Marseille (France), Barcelona (Spain), Calvià (Spain), Cagliari (Italy), and La Valette (Malta). Each stop was used to enhance PlanetSolar’s attributes with the public and local governments.
2013 Campaign: a second useful life for PlanetSolar
After six months of maintenance and optimisation works, specifically with her propulsion system (insert the hyperlink on its technical specifications here), the solar vessel entered into the active phase of her “second life”.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar began her 2013 campaign by repeating her transatlantic crossing, largely beating her own speed record of 26 days recorded in 2010 by the Guinness World Recordstm. That year, it only took the solar catamaran 22 days to cut through the Atlantic from Spain to the Caribbean.
Then, from June 2013, the vessel was converted into a scientific research platform as part of the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition. This mission, led by professor and climatologist Martin Beniston from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), fuelled the ambition to analyse processes with the ocean-atmosphere interface of the Gulf Stream involved in climate control. Thanks to MS Tûranor PlanetSolar’s specifics, the scientific team collected a series of new physical and biological measurements from the sea and air. Powered by solar energy, the vessel does not emit any polluting substance likely to lower the data collected.
Tracking the Gulf Stream took the boat from Florida to Canada with stops in Miami, New York, Boston (US), Halifax, St John’s (Canada) and then returning to Europe stopping at Oostende (Belgium), London (UK), Paris (France), and Lorient (France), where she spent the winter.
The 2013 campaign was a resounding success. After more than 20,000 kilometres sailed, of which more than 8,000 were focused on science, the catamaran achieved its objective of demonstrating that she could go beyond her role as mobile ambassador for photovoltaic energy.
2014 Campaign – “TerraSubmersa”
Following her successful 2013 campaign, the world’s largest solar catamaran spent the winter in the Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly in Lorient. From November 2013 to March 2014, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar hosted hundreds of visitors, taking her role as ambassador of photovoltaic energy to heart.
Then, the catamaran set sail for Boulogne-sur-Mer to launch her 2014 campaign. The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar traveled about 5’600 miles from April to September and made stopovers in 8 cities in order to carry out her mission to promote solar energy. The highlight of this 2014 campaign was the “TerraSubmersa” scientific expedition which took place in Greece during the month of August.
Initiated by the University of Geneva (UNIGE), the objective of this archaeological mission was to explore the submerged prehistoric landscapes of Kilada Bay in the Gulf of Nafplio. The goal was to reconstruct them and identify any traces of human activity there. This expedition, a source of enthusiasm for the public as well as the Greek authorities, was a resounding success. The catamaran’s spacious living area and total energy independence, as well as her shallow draft, made her an optimal work space for the UNIGE researchers.
Following this research, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar reached Venice, her wintering site. Several winter maintenance projects were carried out in order to make the catamaran operational for her next adventure.
PlanetSolar Key dates
2004 : the project takes shape in Raphaël Domjan's mind
2006 : first press conference and official launch of the PlanetSolar project
February 2008 : Immo Ströher joins the project and becomes the main investor and owner of the boat
December 2008 : start of the construction in Knierim Yachtbau in Kiel (Germany)
March 2010 : first launching of the boat
27 September 2010 : departure from Monaco for the first worldtour using solar energy
11 November 2010 : Atlantic crossing successfully completed breaking the world speed record for an Atlantic crossing using solar energy
14 January 2011 : navigation through the Panama Canal and arrival in the Pacific
27 September 2011 : stopover in Singapour, first technical stop
16 January 2012 : dangerous crossing of the Gulf of Aden, known for its pirates
4 May 2012 : arrival in Monaco and first worldtour using solar energy completed
8 June 2012 : start of the mediterranean campaign
30 June 2012 : Raphaël Domjan leaves PlanetSolar to focus on the activities of his foundation, Solar
17 October 2012 : Goes in for maintenance at the Monaco Marine shipyard at La Ciotat (France).
28 February 2013 : The vessel is returned to the water.
26 March 2013 : Press conference and launch of the 2013 campaign.
08 April 2013 : Departure from La Ciotat (France).
18 May 2013 : Arrival at St. Martin (French Antilles), the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar beats its own transatlantic speed record by crossing the Atlantic in 22 days (as opposed to 26 in 2010).
01 June 2013 : Arrival at Miami where the scientific instruments are installed.
08 June 2013 : Departure from Miami (US) and launch of the PlanetSolar DeepWater expedition.
17 June 2013 : The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar makes a stop at New York (US).
22 June 2013 : The solar vessel makes its final US stop at Boston.
15 July 2013 : Arrival at Halifax (Canada).
01 August 2013 : Arrival at St. John’s, Newfoundland (Canada).
06 August 2013 : Departure from St John’s (Canada) for a new crossing across the North Atlantic.
28 August 2013 : Arrival at Oostende (Belgium).
29 August 2013 : Navigating along the Thames stopping in London (Great Britain).
10 September 2013 : After several days on the Seine, arrival in Paris where the 2013 campaign officially came to a close.
24 September 2013 : Arrival at Lorient (France), at la Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly, the winter berth of the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar.
02 November 2013 : The public opening of the vessel in a timely manner at la Cité de la Voile Eric Tabarly.
25 November 2013 : Private preview of the documentary « Opération Solar » in Paris (France).
26 November 2013 : Private preview of the documentary « Opération Solar » in Geneva (Switzerland).
29 November 2013 : PlanetSolar wins the Eurosolar prize 2013 in the « media » category.
10 April 2014 : Launch of the 2014 campaign and departure from Lorient (France)
15 April 2014 : Official launch of the “TerraSubmersa” campaign in Boulogne-sur-Mer
17 April 2014 : Participation in the 23rd annual “Festival des Images de Mer” in Lorient
02 July 2014 : A mini-MS Tûranor PlanetSolar made its entrance at Mini-Europe, Brussels
10 July 2014 : The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is the guest of honor at the Solar1 Monte Carlo Cup 2014
31 July 2014 : Stopover in Eretria for a presentation of the expedition to the public and celebrations onboard the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Swiss School of Archeology in Greece
04 August 2014 : Stopover in Athens, attended by Konstantinos Tassoulas, the Greek Minister of Culture; presentation of the expedition to the public
07 August 2014 : Stopover in Nafplio, presentation of the expedition to the public and boat tours
11 August 2014 : Arrival in Kilada Bay, beginning of archeological research
23 August 2014 : PlanetSolar concludes its 2014 “TerraSubmersa” campaign and sets sails for Venice
04 September 2014 : The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar’s wintering begins in Venice
15 January 2015 : Release of PlanetSolar Webdoc
14 April 2015: The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is donated to the Race for Water Foundation