These days, it seems everything from rooftops to cell phones come equipped with solar panels. Now, huge cargo ships are the latest entities to join the solar power fray. The M/V Auriga Leader, now docked at the Port of Long Beach in California, recently unveiled an impressive array of 328 solar panels that will power the ship’s main electrical grid, making this the first ocean liner to be propelled in part by the sun’s rays.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

The ship’s new solar array is part of a demonstration project organized by the Port of Long Beach, Toyota and Tokyo-based shipping company, NYK Line. The project aims to reduce ships’ dependence on diesel, a dirty fuel that releases significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions even while crafts are docked and unloading cargo at port.

While other ships have used solar panels before to power small electronics like auxiliary lights, the Auriga Leader is the first craft to direct solar power into the ship’s main electrical grid. Energy from 328 panels is helping to power the ship’s thrusters, hydraulics and steering gear, providing about 10 percent of the ship’s total electricity usage.

Though 10 percent may seem a bit paltry, cargo ships suck up huge amounts of power. A boat the size of the Auriga Leader needs about 400 kilowatts of energy while at port, while a larger vessel like an oil supertanker needs about eight megawatts (enough juice to power 5,500 homes!)to pump its cargo of oil off the ship.

The shipping business is extremely toxic to both the earth and human health because of its massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and harmful soot and particulate pollution. So while 328 panels on the Auriga Leader may be a small step, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

+ Port of Long Beach

Via LA Times