Cargo ships are notorious for their noxious fumes, and California is hinting at finally introducing tough legislation requiring that shipping clean up its act.
So, sooner or later, you would expect to see a solar powered ship come chugging in to the Port of Long Beach in Southern California.
Well, here it is. A test case, at least:
Toyota’s 60,000-ton, seven story cargo ship can carry more than 6,200 cars at a time and regularly does so, transporting Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles from Toyota Motor Co. factories in Japan to Toyota’s 144-acre spread at this port in Los Angeles.
Normally, the eco-saintly Priuses onboard are heralded into port by the noxious fumes of climate-unfriendly fossils as they slide into the Golden State.
But seven months ago, (Wow. That places this decision right around the time of the financial apocalypse last Fall!) Toyota installed this test array, comprising 328 solar panels, on the top deck as an experiment to see if such a system would work effectively aboard a car carrier. So far, so good, State said, adding that not a single problem had arisen since the panels were installed last December.
“She may be the first of her kind,” he said, “for sure, she will not be the last.”
And additionally, now that their attention is on it; electrical engineers at Toyota’s headquarters in Japan have found solar modules that are three times more efficient than the ones used here. (“More efficient” just means it takes less space to make the same power; but, where space is an issue, as on a ship deck, efficiency just means that you can install more power in less space than you could before.)
Taciuc Dorin; the ship’s mechanical engineer said the ship could have been equipped with enough solar to supply a quarter of its demand – a 500 KW solar system. But this initial test installation was more to determine if sea conditions were too dangerous for making their own electricity on board. Even this smaller system and accompanying equipment cost $1.8 million.
Already, he said, the test had proven successful. In the seven months since the Auriga Leader got her solar arrays, there’s not been one “surprise,” he said, such as a break in the circuit because water had leaked into the system.
That would have been easy enough, he said, given the amount of wiring involved and the ship’s proximity to water, loads of water. But it hasn’t happened.