Marine Group Boat Works,(“MGBW”) a family-owned boatbuilding and repair company, is leading the charge for sustainable construction, off the water. After recently completing a 500-kW rooftop solar panel system for its shipyard in National City, CA, MGBW can safely be said to be one of the first boatbuilders to use solar energy to construct boats. The new solar panel system will greatly decrease MGBW’s footprint and is expected to reduce annual energy consumption by 81% based on past and projected consumption.
“Our initial decision to go solar was driven primarily by our desire to be a zero-emission, low impact boatbuilder,” said Todd Roberts, president of MGBW. “There’s no question that solar is an economic benefit, but there are many other advantages – everything from self-reliance and sustainability to doing the right thing. We chose to do the right thing.”
MGBW’s commitment to sustainability and low impact construction makes one of the evolving many pioneers in the industry, as recognized by the Port of San Diego who awarded MGBW with the 2016 Renewable Energy Sustainability Achievement Award. Another solar-powered project which has been inspired by the changing tide towards increased awareness of carbon footprints is the SolarImpact yacht.
Excitingly, this year at the Cannes Yachting Festival, the world’s first ocean-going solar-powered yacht was unveiled. After five years of research, Swiss company SolarImpact AG addressed the problems of rough seas and high noise levels with a new and ingenious 24-metre solar yacht which is almost silent without any swaying motion, even in strong swells.
SolarImpact’s drive technology and energy supply were developed in collaboration with Austria‘s Kreisel Electric GmbH & Co.KG, a company known for developing highly efficient, ultra-light, rechargeable battery packs. SolarImpact also works closely with the American supplier SunPower, whose solar cells currently have the highest possible efficiency. Solbian, a specialist supplier of flexible solar modules, uses these cells to produce the flexible panels that are installed on the yacht.
Along with the rise of the eco-conscious owner, a yacht’s green credentials and fuel economy have become a big factor in securing a sale. A project to entice such an owner is the Hot Lab 67M explorer by Italian shipyard VSY. A company at the forefront of ecologically responsible construction, VSY’s creation has a staggering 5,000 nautical mile range, making it extremely fuel efficient.
The sustainable explorer is a growing class of yacht more tuned in with environmental efficiency, engineered with lowered pollution and emission techniques to provide a guilt-free cruising. Ingrained in the construction ethos is a respect for the far-flung habitats these yachts will visit.
Of course, no-one can argue that the most fuel-efficient yachts are those that exploit the power of the wind and, as Oceanco’s 106.7 metre Black Pearl proves, with the right sail plan - three 70-metre Dynarig carbon masts and 2,900 square metres of sails – fuel can be virtually left out of the equation entirely. When fuel is concerned though, VSY has this year taken further action to ensure that research has been conducted into alternative fuels.
Italian superyacht shipyard VSY has this year agreed to a partnership with Siemens and Lloyd’s Register to develop a project which will see the application of hydrogen fuel cells technology on one of their new yachts. The shipyard is not only encouraging the evolution of ecologically sound construction of larger yachts but also promoting relationships with international committees and companies to stimulate the increase of environmental stability and clean technologies.
One such international committee which was established this year and is looking to make a big impact on the sailing community is The World Sailing Trust, a unique governing body that has been described by World Sailing as a ‘catalyst for change’ in marine conservation.
Dee Caffari, Chair of the World Sailing Trust declared of the Trust's impact on the superyacht community: "Ultimately everyone will benefit from the work the trust will undertake and the efforts we put in now will have an impact on future generations. For those of us that spend a great deal of time at sea, the benefits are obvious. Superyacht owners will be well aware of the plastic pollution issue and no doubt want to join the growing movement to tackle this. The planet can do with all the help it can get so the more people we can encourage to take action, the better."
As Caffari so expertly phrased it, the changes that the industry is making towards yacht building, production, running and our attitudes towards sustainable sailing are changing as we become more aware of our environmental impact. These changes are incredibly positive as we look towards a hopefully greener and brighter future, one in which the superyacht industry can come together to make a truly tremendous and positive impact on ocean conservation.