The Solar Heritage is a solar powered boat providing trips around Chichester Harbour, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) since 2004.
Background & Objectives
Trips are accompanied by an experienced guide who informs visitors about the local environment and its importance.
The main benefits are
- The onboard engines are virtually silent allowing close up views of the birds and habitats of this important environment
- No exhaust emissions therefore no CO 2 contribution to greenhouse gases
- No wash as a result of the twin hull configuration therefore reduced salt marsh and estuary bank erosion.
All revenue is spent on offset the running costs and maintenance with any surplus being used for projects within the AONB. The boat is run and operated by the Conservancy (the Statutory Harbour Authority for Chichester Harbour and the Joint Advisory Committee for the AONB).
The Solar Heritage is an Aquabus C60. This is a pollution-free, solar-powered catamaran; reaching 11 knots and traking up to 60 people. In the UK the maximum carried is 50 and travel is limited to 8 knots. It is 14m in length and 6.6m wide.
The vessel is driven by two 8kW electric motors, one in each hull and has PV solar panels, covering 20 m² installed upon the vessel’s roof. If fully charged off the grid prior to sailing the electric motors are capable of running for up to 8 hours without the use of the PV panels if necessary (overnight for example).
The manufacturer’s specifications for the boat states that the running costs of this vessel compared to an equivalent thermal engine is 45 times less costly.
Key process issues (procurement, retrofitting of on-board systems etc)
The boat was originally one of three Solar powered ferries operating out of Neuchatel in Switzerland's Three Lakes Region for the Swiss 2002 National Exposition devoted to Nature and Technology. It was built by the Swiss company MW-Line.
The boat was initially developed and built to be used within a freshwater environment, however after some initial teething problems getting making some alterations to components to make them suitable for a tidal maritime environment and the rigorous certification procedures that went with this, these problems were overcome.
The boat was bought by Chichester Harbour Conservancy as part of a three year Heritage Lottery Fund scheme developed by the Conservancy called Rhythms of the Tide.
The programme of advertised trips is promoted in an annual activities programme in addition to any other promotional activities conducted by the Conservancy to highlight all its activities and services particularly through its website and promotional leaflets.
The boat has been a successful means of promoting sustainable transport within a fragile, protected marine environment. It has also provided an engaging mechanism for targeted education and awareness raising work. Passengers experience Chichester Harbour first hand, learning about its importance, wildlife, history and management.