Solar Boat

My friend and I built a solar-powered pontoon boat at our college in southwest Florida. All materials and cash were donated. We raised all the money, and of course, put all the pieces together.

Our boat is a 2003 Crest pontoon boat (22 feet long; 8 1/2 feet wide) that is now powered by a solar-electric array. Although we haven't had a chance to test its limits yet, from early runs, we feel confident we can get 6 to 8 hours of run time using nothing but solar-generated electricity.

The array canopy stands 7 feet above the deck of the boat and is 10 feet long by 8 feet wide, with six BP Solar 175-watt modules. OutBack Power Systems' MPPT controller controls charging to our five 12-volt, 105 amp-hour AGM batteries.

Courtesy Matt Coalson

A Whisper XT outboard brushless motor propels the boat, using neodymium boron iron magnets, which produce more power than standard magnets, and at a higher rate of efficiency.

Now that we've built our boat, we're showing it off. We were in the Fourth of July parade with our boat in Naples, and when school starts this fall, we'll be demonstrating the technology to kindergarten through twelfth-grade students.

Matt Coalson • Naples, Florida

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