Solar boat crew offers education outreach in Boston

PlanetSolar docks in BostonThe MS Turanor PlanetSolar, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, is not idling at the docks during its stopover in Boston this week.

The solar boat’s crew along with climatology researchers from the University of Geneva that are using the boat to collect samples from the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean are visiting museums and leading education outreach efforts in the city.

The PlanetSolar DeepWater team is working with the Boston Children’s Museum, the Boston Museum of Science, Greentown Labs, MIT Energy Club and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, according to a release from the PlanetSolar team.

The group will lead an effort at the Children’s Museum to allow kids to build model solar boats and will offer public conferences at the MIT Energy Club and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

‘This project fits perfectly with our University’s missions: education, research, and service to the community,” said Jean-Dominique Vassalli, rector at the University of Geneva.

Boston is the solar catamaran’s last stop in the United States before continuing north into Canada and then venturing across the north part of the Atlantic, continuing to collect samples from the Gulf Stream.

The University of Geneva researchers, lead by professor Martin Beniston, chose to travel the Gulf Stream in the PlanetSolar because it has no emissions that could contaminate his samples.

“Our objective is to understand the complex interactions between physics, biology, and climate, eventually enabling scientists to refine climate simulation, especially as it relates to energy exchanges between the ocean and the atmosphere,” Benniston said.

PlanetSolar is outfitted with 5,554 square feet of solar panels that enables it to travel an average of 8 miles per hour with no use of fossil fuels or wind. The boat traveled around the world between September 2010 and May 2012, making 28 educational stops like this one in Boston.

This research trip is a much shorter journey with multiple purposes. The boat stopped in Miami early in June and spent a few days docked in New York City last week.