Many of the world’s most idyllic island destinations, from French Polynesia to the Maldives, rely on tourism for much of their economy. And their tourism relies on the images these islands evoke in travellers’ minds of palm fringed beaches, pristine seas, and healthy coral reefs. Yet the traffic this tourism creates also threatens the purity of this beautiful environment.
Transport around and between these islands, whether from resort to resort or to explore lagoons on sightseeing and snorkelling trips, is done mostly by boat. Conventionally these boats are fossil-fuel powered, which means both tourists and aquatic life are disturbed by their fumes and the noise from the engines, and the associated CO2 emissions pollute the ocean and the air. Soel Yachts’ new solar powered SoelCat 12 offers a cleaner, quieter alternative. Just released at the end of 2016, the SoelCat 12 is a 39-foot-long catamaran that can seat up to 24 people and cruise at speeds from six to 15 knots. When cruising at six knots, it is 100% powered by the 36 solar panels that cover the entirety of its roof. At higher speeds, the vessel is boosted by a pair of 60-kilowatt-hour lithium batteries. And when in harbour or not in use, the boat can be plugged into the resort’s power network and operate as a floating solar array, supplying the resort with additional clean energy.
SoelCat’s first customer is The Okeanos Foundation, who is leasing the SoelCat 12 to a hotel group operating three five-star hotels in Bora Bora and Tahaa. And as the boat has been designed to be packed into two 40 ft high cube containers, it can be easily transported to locations around the world, since it is not just remote islands and atolls that could benefit from these cleaner, quieter boats. Whether protecting the medieval architecture of Venice, providing green transportation to cities like New York or Sydney, or getting tourists closer to nature without disturbing it, Soel Yachts offers a chance for smooth solar sailing where the sky is not the limit, but the solution.