The world's largest solar powered vessel, Turanor PlanetSolar, and its Switzerland-based crew have reached Doha, the capital of Qatar. The 114-foot catamaran is nearing completion of the world's first solar powered east-west circumnavigation. The voyage began in Monaco on Sept. 27, 2010. So far its crew of four sailors have successfully crossed the Atlantic, the Panama Canal, the Pacific, and the Indian Ocean along a route that closely follows the equator to maximize sunlight. Working with forecasters at Meteo France and the organization's own scientists, the crew has been able to optimize the vessel's route and speed in accordance with available sunlight. The vessel is powered by 5,780 square feet of photovoltaic panels and a large bank of lithium-ion batteries.
Designed by Craig Loomes from New Zealand, the organization hopes to use the futuristic carbon fiber vessel as a platform to promote renewable energy around the world, and solar energy in particular. Turanor (which means power of the sun in J.R.R. Tolkien mythology) was launched in March 2010 at Knierim Yachbau in Kiel, Germany. Turanor PlanetSolar plans to complete its voyage in Monte Carlo in the spring of 2012.