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Just as a residential solar system makes a house independent of an electricity grid, a marine solar panel makes a yacht independent of a fossil fuel powered generator. Catamarans boosted by solar power systems are increasingly in demand in today’s day and age for their increased energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact.

Here is everything you should know about solar catamarans from Sunreef Yachts Eco:

An Introduction to Solar Catamarans

Derived from natural sources, renewable energy is replenished at a far higher rate than consumed. Of these, solar energy is the most abundant renewable energy resource on Earth that may even be harnessed during cloudy weathers. Additionally, because sunlight remains omnipresent, powering a watercraft with solar energy is a fitting concept.

Before we continue exploring the subject of solar catamarans, let us focus on the architecture. The twin hull structure of catamarans translates into a large beam, which provides ample space for solar panels installation. To top it off, catamarans have a fairly shallow draft that produces little to no drag, making them exceptionally energy efficient.

Marine solar panels are currently gaining substantial popularity amongst catamaran designers and manufacturers as a medium of supplying clean energy via a reliable source. Sunreef Yachts Eco is a pioneer in solar catamarans as we believe that the incorporation of a solar power system into yachts births an environmentally friendly yachting solution with a significantly reduced carbon footprint.

The Benefits of Solar Catamarans

The ocean is home to the largest continuous ecosystems; unfortunately, it also remains the most sensitive. Millions of people across the globe indulge in recreational marina and boating activities leaving behind pollution in their wake.

Here are three ways in which solar catamarans rectify commonly occurring hazards for the greater good of the environment:

1. Fuel (oil or gasoline) spills and the discharge of combusted fuels from engines readily contaminates water surrounding the marinas. This aggravates toxicity levels in water, resulting in increased pollutant concentrations in aquatic organisms and sediments.

For illustration, coral reefs, which are a vital source of nitrogen and nutrients for marine food chains and provide shelter for over one million aquatic species, are nearing extinction due to water pollution.

Installing solar panels would, without a doubt, decrease the dependency of all types of watercrafts on non-renewable energy sources, i.e., fossil fuels, for operations and increase energy efficiency.

2. Noise from moving gas-powered ships cuts straight to the sea floor and back. These acoustic vibrations transmitting end-to-end affect marine animals to a great extent. Research suggests that human-caused noises result in disrupted behaviours, increased stress, and impaired feeding in marine life, leading to injury and death.

Solar catamarans are far quieter than their combustion-driven counterparts; thus, they maintain the oceanic silence vital for the marine life as it enables communication and continuous growth.

3. The elimination of fuels also makes solar yachts more affordable to run and maintain in the long haul.

In comparison to fuel powered generators, solar catamarans produce electricity at a lower cost since solar panels obtain power via the sunlight, a renewable source of energy that is present in abundance. But even if your catamaran utilizes both fuel and solar power, you are still to enjoy significant savings on fuel.  

Why Power A Boat with Solar Panels  

Apart from the obvious environmental factors, solar panels fulfil an important criterion for the oceangoing voyagers who do not wish to be left stranded far from land with a dead battery: unlimited backup power.  

On a typical sailing day, there is ample sunlight to ensure the backup battery restores enough power to generate electricity that keeps motors, electrical systems, and onboard appliances running. An added benefit of solar panels is that they continue to generate power even when the catamaran is at a standstill. This energy is stored in batteries for later use.  

Furthermore, unlike gas powered generators, solar catamarans do not produce excessive heat, are quieter, and experience little to no vibrations. This allows boat trips to remain pleasant for sailors and vacationers.  

Sunreef Yachts combines luxury with sustainability to offer noiseless, vibration-free, and fume-free cruising experiences. Launched under the Sunreef Yachts Eco flag, our sailing and motor yachts are powered using inhouse engineered solar panels that are fully integrated within their composite structure for optimal results. However, an additional asset for sailing solar catamarans remains the ability to combine eco motoring with wind propulsion with the use of high-performance kites.  

The Mechanism of the Solar Power System  

Solar panels integrated into the bimini, including flat and curved surfaces.

Classification of Solar Panels  

There are various kinds of solar panels available for marine boats: adjustable panels, standard panels, and high-energy thin-film panels. While some may argue that having a portable solar panel makes it easier to relocate to where the sun shines the brightest, permanently mounted panels remain ready to go throughout the day.

Despite their long life, standard panels often fail to find a place in the marine industry as they compromise the space availability onboard. Hence, high-energy thin-film panels emerge as winners due to their ability of being permanently embedded on the solar catamaran’s bodywork without restricting living space.

The research and development team at Sunreef Yachts Eco developed the industry’s first composite integrated photovoltaic technology to produce highly efficient, shock resistant, flexible, and ultra-thin solar panels. This in-house engineered solar power system was recognized as a winner of the German Design Award 2022 in the category of Excellent Product Design: Eco Design.

Each solar panel consists of photovoltaic cells, compromising of a positive and negative layer for creating an electrical field. These are made of singly-crystal silicon, a semiconductor that absorbs the radiations of the sun to produce electrical power via the photovoltaic effect. For better understanding: the photovoltaic effect is the process of converting photons (a particle of light) to voltage.

Technical Specifications of Solar Panels

While the average solar panels’ weight lies between 8 to 15 kilograms per square meter, Sunreef Yachts Eco’s solar cells have a thickness below one millimetre and weigh only 1.8 kilograms per square meter. This makes Sunreef Yachts Eco the lightest marine solar power system producer in the solar catamaran market.

A graphical representation of the efficiency advantage of Sunreef Yachts Eco's solar cells.

Each of the solar cells administered into the Sunreef solar catamarans are ISO 9001:2015 certified and offer a peak performance of ±24 percent, this is 25 to 30 percent more power compared to conventional cells. Despite this, these solar cells do not heat up excessively when receiving sunlight.

Integration Into the Solar Catamarans Structure

The orientation of the sun should be as such as that it hits the solar panels at a 90° angle for best performance. However, with the Earth rotating around its axis to produce a 24-hour day, it is non-viable to ensure the perfect angle throughout the day.

What is more is that the amount of energy produced may also differ depending on external factors, such as a building preventing direct sunlight from hitting the solar panels or light experiencing diffraction from the waterbody before contact. For this reason, it is best to invest in high-efficiency solar cells that generate maximum energy even from limited number of active panels.

Sunreef Yachts Eco makes the most of its solar catamarans’ space availability by spreading its “solar skin” across the hulls, mast, superstructure, bow terrace and bimini roof. Due to this arrangement, the solar panels receive ample sunlight at desired angles from early morning to late afternoon.

At the same time, light rays bouncing off the surface of water to the solar panels, in a process called reflection, also helps generate electricity. These superior performance solar panels possess great strength and durability to survive adverse conditions, year after year.

The 80 Sunreef Power Eco, a solar catamaran from Sunreef Yachts Eco

Generation of Electricity on Solar Catamarans

The crystals in marine solar cells are treated to enable the movement of electrons to generate an electric current. These silicon electrons activate only when in direct contact with sunrays. Instantaneously they start producing direct current (or DC) charges, which is captured by wires and stored in the batteries as energy.

At this point, a charge controller is employed as a regulator for the energy to transfer from the solar panels to the battery. It not only manages the energy load received by the battery, but also prolongs the battery life and performance by ensuring the battery is not overcharged or overloaded. Solar catamarans deploy multiple charge controllers depending on the energy produced.

While the current may be supplied directly to support the electrical demands of the catamaran, if the appliances demand alternating current (or AC), an inverter is added to the cycle to convert the DC to AC first.

Solar Catamarans in Action

But how much energy is enough energy? Working out a catamarans’ energy requirements requires summing up the energy consumed by each device onboard in watt-hours. For better understanding: energy is power accumulated over time, so if power is calculated in watts, energy is watt-hours.

Hence, the first step of installing solar panels dictates an extensive energy assessment of the watercraft. This requires checking the labels of every individual appliance onboard for its typical amp hours and volts used, be it the fridge, fan, or lightbulb. A battery monitor can also help measure energy consumed more accurately.

Depending on the size of the catamaran and the energy consumed, the solar panels size and wattage of power can be precisely determined. Multiple solar panels may be wired together to form a solar array for maximum energy generation. Aiming to fulfil the power needs of your catamaran with solar panels allows you to enjoy a quiet, peaceful anchorage.

Overcoming The Challenges of Solar Catamarans

While yacht solar panels resolve the problem for keeping the batteries topped up without running the generator, solar power systems are faced with challenges of their own. For starters, the harsh weather incurred at sea and saltwater splashing on or immersing the panels accounts for much damage.

However, technological advancements have enabled solar panels to withstand most of these environmental adversities. To illustrate, the installation and electronics linked with solar power systems have now become more resistant to short circuits and corrosion.

Sunreef Yachts Eco employs a unique photovoltaic integration technique in solar catamarans to give the panels extreme resistance to shock and abrasion. Even if the cell eventually cracks, the solid metal foundation remains intact to maintain a high-power output. Furthermore, these solar panels experience no light-induced degradation, no temperature coefficient, and favourable low-light and broad spectral response.

Sunreef Yachts Eco deploys solar cells backed with solid metal foundations.

Likewise, the constrains of surface area for marine solar PVs have been addressed with the ability to manufacture customized solar panels. For instance, Sunreef Yachts Eco uses the lightest solar cells in the industry which offer unparalleled flexibility for placement on rounded surfaces of the solar catamaran while others break under pressure. Here solar panels are integrated vertically (on hull sides, flybridge sides, and mast) and horizontally (on front flybridge and bimini) to maximize energy generation.

While the Sunreef Yachts Eco’s solar panel system has a protracted life expectancy, any panels sustaining damage, due to adverse conditions at sea or other geographical circumstances, can easily be replaced. However, it is proven repeatedly that their performance remains unaltered over extended periods of time.

Efficiency of Solar Catamarans Vs. Diesel Yachts

Solar panels make for an ideal energy provider as they ensure the batteries always have power. This makes solar catamarans more self-sustainable and cost efficient to run in comparison to gas-powered ones. Additionally, fewer moving parts in solar catamarans call for significantly lesser maintenance in comparison to diesel yachts.

Boats of all shapes, sizes, and types (sail or motor) can be powered via solar energy to run all onboard appliances on battery. Apart from fulfilling the watercrafts’ day to day electrical usage, utilizing a renewable source of energy extends the durability and reliability of the catamaran.

But most importantly, a solar powered yacht compared to a standard diesel yacht has a significantly reduced carbon footprint. Ideally, with the use of solar power generation on catamarans, you would save 108.5kg of CO2 emissions per day or 39.6 metric tonnes annually.

Why Invest in A Solar Catamaran?

The wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and the sweet smell of the sea are one of the many joys of sailing. However, as an ocean enthusiast, it is crucial to calculate your impact on the environment. On average, the Sunreef Yachts Eco’s solar catamarans account for substantial electricity generation of up to 30 kWh, promoting a positive green footprint.

Today, solar catamarans are trending among yacht owners and shipbuilders as a clean medium to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, staying true to its legacy of yacht innovation and evolution, Sunreef Yachts Eco continues to work on advancements to its solar panels for improved performance, efficiency, and durability.

Evaluating the Sunreef Yachts Eco Solar Catamarans

Sunreef Yachts Eco deploys solar cells backed with solid metal foundations

Using advanced technology, Sunreef Yachts Eco has engineered ultra-thin, flexible solar panels with the best performance on the market. They are seven times lighter than the average solar power system, enabling them to be fully integrated into the composite structures, including curved surfaces.

The more surface area covered, the more electricity generated. The 80 Sunreef Power incorporates 200 square meters of solar panels (weighing about 360 kilograms) that deliver an astounding 40 kilowatts peak per hour. This setup alone produces solar energy equalling to two generators weighing 800 kilograms altogether.

Hence proven that Sunreef Yachts Eco optimized marine solar panel system outperforms a diesel generator both by weight and performance. Additionally, at reduced speeds, the Sunreef 80 Eco remains fully autonomous, running solely on solar power.

In light of sustainable yachting, Sunreef Yachts Eco has committed to launch over 40 models of its solar catamarans by the end of 2024; this includes a wide selection of sailing yachts, power yachts, and superyachts. Furthermore, Sunreef Yachts has begun commissioning a new range of technologically advanced hybrid ecospeeders, called the Sunreef ULTIMA, that would further extend their solar catamarans line up.

Future Innovations in Solar Catamarans

Despite the distinctive competency of Sunreef Yachts Eco in solar catamarans, the journey of innovation does not come to a halt. To further reduce our carbon footprint, we are undergoing ground-breaking research to redirect excess heat secured from direct sunlight on solar panels to the boilers of our solar catamarans.

Furthermore, Sunreef Yachts Eco is currently developing a concept of an all-new 90 feet sustainable sailing superyacht, called ‘The Zero Cat’. Apart from sporting a solar power system, this catamaran will use a zero-emission generator to convert methanol to clean hydrogen for unlimited autonomy and greater self-sufficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why are solar catamarans favorable? 
    Because sunlight remains omnipresent, solar catamarans discern as a greener, cost efficient, and self-sustaining yachting solution. The environmentally friendly passenger conveyance from Sunreef Yachts Eco is consciously built to counter air, water, and sound pollution.
  2. What is a solar catamaran?
    A solar catamaran is a twin-hulled vessel powered by solar panels, harnessing sunlight to drive its propulsion and onboard systems, offering an eco-friendly alternative to traditional fossil fuel-powered boats. Powered using inhouse engineered solar panels, solar catamarans designed and manufactured by Sunreef Yachts Eco encourage a positive green footprint at sea. 
  3. Do solar catamarans exist?
    Launched under the Sunreef Yachts Eco flag, our sailing and motor yachts are powered using inhouse engineered solar panels that are fully integrated within their composite structure for optimal results. The Polish designer and manufacturer has also committed to launch 40 additional models of its solar catamarans in 2024.
  4. Are there any solar powered yachts?
    With an increasing demand for solar catamarans with increased energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact, Sunreef Yachts Eco has put to sea several variants of its sailing and power catamarans such as the Sunreef 60 Eco, Sunreef 70 Eco, Sunreef 80 Eco, and 80 Sunreef Power Eco
  5. What are the advantages of solar catamarans?
    The installation of solar panels reduces a watercrafts sole dependency on non-renewable energy sources for operations. In comparison to their combustion-driven counterparts, solar catamarans offer noiseless, vibration-free, and fume-free cruising experiences.
  6. How much is a solar-powered catamaran?
    With Sunreef Yachts Eco’s philosophy of promoting clean green yachting, the company has released a new range of solar catamarans, the Sunreef ULTIMA, with prices starting as low as €2M* for the 44 ULTIMA ECO. *Please note that all prices listed are subject to change at any time without prior notice.
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Sunreef Venture S.A.

Sunreef Yachts Shipyard

ul. Tarcice 6

80-718 Gdańsk, Poland

+48 58 769 77 77