Our solutions

Solar sailing
23 March 2010

Jonathan Crinion skippers Friends of the Earth - a state of the art yacht sailing to promote The Big Ask campaign. All the instruments on board are powered by the sun.

Who made the solar panels?

The system was developed by Propellerworks, an engineering company and one of our sponsors. The panels' brand name is Solara - available in the UK.

Are they specially designed for a yacht?

Jonathan Crinion No, they can be used for any application you wish. We picked ones that were flexible because they have to follow the contours of the boat deck and coach roof. My 4 solar panels produce a total of 226 amps power.

What do the solar panels power?

There are 7 batteries on board:

  • 1 for the engine starter motor, to be sure we can always get into harbour
  • 2 for the ballast pumps
  • 4 for electronics such as the laptop computer, satellite system and satellite phone, along with the navigation lights

The lights on the boat are all LED (light emitting diodes). They use very little energy to produce light and don't need replacing.

Friends of the Earth on the water

Your diesel engine motors the boat in and out of port. In the future, could this be powered using solar cells too?

Absolutely. Although at the moment you can do about 500 miles on a tank of diesel, but you won't go that far on batteries. Technology needs to develop a little bit.

Maybe the electric motor could be like hybrid cars, where you can use either fuel or electric as appropriate. That would work!

Jonathan Crinion

What do other sailors think?

So far their response has been very positive. Contrary to popular belief, most sailors are quite frugal - they're interested in any way that they can save money.

A lot of yachts already have wind turbines to power their systems. This alternative is great if you sail around the UK, but I'm sailing south through the doldrums where it's sunny and there's not always much wind.

It's about finding the right solution for your situation

Jonathan Crinion

Why are you promoting The Big Ask?

Because we have the technology, we have the solutions to prevent climate change. They just have to be applied.

And a political framework around climate change creates accountability from one government to the next. Without it, CO2 emissions will continue to increase because there's no incentive to reduce them.


Sign up to receive Jonathan's on board blog.

Friends of the Earth sailing

© Flat33 / Friends of the Earth

Get email updates

Sign up for our latest news and ways to get involved