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DIY Perpetuum Boat - Creative Ways to Generate Electricity on the Boat

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jnikola Jun 18, 2021
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The idea is to develop a boat that runs on a motor powered by batteries. No sails, just an engine-powered boat. Batteries would be continuously charged by solar panels/coverings and in-built hydrogenerators.
Do you have any comments, add-ons, or examples?
Can you think of any other efficient way to generate electricity on the boat without drastically affecting the speed?

The problem
I want to buy a boat and I would like it to be a smaller yacht (I don't like sailing).
I have two problems:
  • I have no money for the yacht and
  • I have no money for the fuel
Let's say that maybe sometimes in life I will have money to buy a middle-sized boat, so that solves the first problem. The second one remains and it's big. I found information that an average superyacht spends around 500 liters of fuel per hour just to run the engines and not moving the boat . While cruising, the costs grow up to 2500$ per hour. Although I would like something much smaller, the fuel costs are still pretty big.

The solution
What if we built a zero-energy boat that power itself? A perpetuum ship that could run for years without needing to stop to fuel up. The idea is to brainstorm and see could the energy generated from solar panels placed all over the ship, solar coverings of the boat sides and the hydrogenerators like this one be enough to power a battery that powers the electric motor.

What else could we add to enhance the energy production?
Is this even possible?


Creative contributions

A DIY approach

Povilas S
Povilas S Jun 18, 2021
The idea is nice and attractive. It's definitely not novel per se, but it could have novelty in its DIY aspect. What you propose here is a money-saving, small option, almost along the lines of off-grid, self-reliant living. So maybe we could brainstorm how to approach making such a boat with the least finances. In that regard, it reminds me of many ideas/sessions that Darko has posted. So my suggestion would be to change the title to a DIY Perpetuum boat (just a suggestion).

Talking about technical aspects important thing here is the ratio between the size of the boat and the surface area of solar panels - the smaller the first one and the bigger the second, the easier it will be to make it run entirely on solar and the faster it could go. Look at this
- the surface area of the cells is crazy big (almost nothing else can be on the deck). On the other hand, the boat is also rather huge.

It will very much depend on what speed do you want to attain with that boat. A small boat that moves slowly should be no problem to power with solar cells (if you want to take your time to "sail" around the world, for example, while living on the boat), but if you want to be able to go rather fast, then, of course, it will be more difficult. I tried to research the physics of this a bit, but didn't manage to find the right formulas, this might be of use.

Basically what's necessary is to calculate what size of the propeller(s) and power of the rotor(s) can move a ship of a certain mass. The maximum speed that you want to be able to achieve will define the upper limit of the rotor power. When you'll know the range of the rotor power, you can turn it into the range of the electric power that will be necessary to get from the solar cells and you'll know how many cells at what light intensity will be able to generate that power. So the mass of the ship, the surface area of the cells, the light intensity, and the power of the rotor(s) are the main factors to take into account. Oh, and the fact that electricity will be necessary for other things inside the boat is not to be forgotten.

So it will depend a lot on where you'll be sailing, what kind of weather it will happen to be, all that. If you want to be able to go non-stop (a real Perpetuum situation) then nighttime is a big problem. I don't think you can rely solely on the power gathered in the batteries during the day for this. Unless again you are ok with just drifting or moving very slow. To have a sail just for situations where there's not enough power from the cells seems like a good idea - a hybrid boat (also, most likely already existing).

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jnikola3 years ago
Thank you Povilas S, great suggestion. I edited the title.

You did a lot of research and thank you for that. You pointed out key parameters and I would like to focus on these two: 1) the mass of the ship and 2) the power of the rotor. Why?

The solar panel use on the boat is indeed a well-investigated field. But, as I mentioned in the idea description above, I saw that people use various sources of energy to power up the boat utilities. While you focused on the solar as a stand-alone powering system, my idea was to think of additional ways how to power the boat up, even during the night. The first idea was the hydrogenerator (mentioned above). As I realized, it generates electricity from the movement of the propeller. So, every time the boat is moving, or the strong current of the sea exists, the propeller moves and the boat generates electricity. I would describe it as a "moving wind turbine" of the sea. Instead of waiting for the current to start the propeller rotation, it rotates because the boat moves. Maybe I am too enthusiastic, but this seems to me as a cool, easy implantable way of additional energy generation. I imagine it also being built inside the boat's bottom and act similar to a hydropower plant. The key issue here is to minimize the effect of the system on the speed of the boat (it shouldn't drastically slow it down).

Is there any other idea of how every single part of the boat can be used to generate electricity?
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 years ago
Juran Yes, sorry, I seem to have totally ignored your mention of hydrogenerators. The problem I see with hydrogenerators is that if you are not willing to use a sail, then they would have to feed on the energy "leftovers" coming from the solar (because you need a primary energy source to move the boat for hydrogenerators to produce energy), so not sure how efficient it would be and how much it would add up to the energy coming from the solar.

But anyway it's better to have them than not. The energy from the waves could also be harvested somehow, probably with different generators than those which charges from the movement of the boat. If you are really thinking of throwing the sail all away, then wind generators should probably take its place. At sea wind power might be even more productive than solar.

PS: I didn't understand whether you're asking me why I mentioned those two parameters (the mass of the ship and the power of the rotor) as important or whether you're trying to reason yourself why only those two are important? :)
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jnikola3 years ago
Povilas S Wind turbines are a cool idea, but it would be nice (design-wise) if they are hidden somewhere (like the compact safe wind turbine with no external rotating objects).
It was just me reasoning myself. :)
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Solar-electric hybrid yacht with backup generator

salemandreus Jul 11, 2021
The Silent Yacht 55 is branded as “Solar-powered and self-sustaining” in this review.
This article explains how was designed partly to address the exact problem you mentioned of conventional yachts consuming vast amounts of fuel even while idle. The creator “[researched] the best ways of harnessing renewable power aboard a cruising boat to keep the generator off. He weighed up wind, solar and hydrogenation [...] [saying] [...] ‘When we did the measurements, solar produced much more [than the other options].’”

-It has no engine, runs on two electric motors
-Can be powered by either:
  • An array of 10kw solar panels which allow for cruising in continuous sunlight.
  • A bank of 140kwh lithium batteries (on the older model mentioned in the above review) or 210kWh (newer model).
  • You can cruise using the battery bank from 2-12 hours (older model) before needing to recharge, depending on how much power you are using. These would be used when you don’t have direct sunlight powering the yacht or if you want more power.
  • 100kw 600l diesel generator (admittedly this is diesel but far far more efficient usage of it than the superyacht!)
  • Hybrid of running on battery power while being charged by the generator
This is the most efficient usage of the diesel: When your battery gets low you can run on batteries with the generator charging them at the same time (this also kicks in automatically below a certain threshold so you don't have to worry about running out of power or having to start the generator up manually) and this hybrid running provides what This reviewer in 2019 describes as "pretty much continuous running" - and this was on the older model, before the battery upgrade. It then only runs at 50% power, which is optimal for charging the batteries and powering the generator.

According to the second link article about the older model, one user boasted about being in his second year generator-free on the yacht, as one would barely use the generator at all at lower cruising speeds of 5-6 knots. Although though if you are wanting high cruising speeds you will still have to use the generator some of the time so it seems there would be some trade-off between fully clean energy and speed.

The newer model with the 210kWh battery was reviewed here last year which had this to say about the yacht’s power usage and self-sustainability:
“With a 600-litre diesel capacity the generator’s tank will not need regular fills and there are no mechanicals to service apart from the generator itself so you need to carry very few spare components. You don’t depend on shore power either so if you genuinely want to live on board and get away from the crowded surroundings of a marina this boat delivers that.”
Some other notable perks of this model:
  • Mostly clean energy
  • Still luxurious
  • Silent - all of the reviewers remarked on how silently it ran, one even titled the article "The Sound of Silence"!
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jnikola3 years ago
Okay, this is impressive. My idea was to go fully green, without any diesel generators, but I guess everybody would like to have a diesel backup, no matter how green the boat is. Thank you for this great finding. The boat is extremely cool, eco-friendly, and luxurious and that's amazing!
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salemandreus3 years ago
Juran right? I had no particular interest in one day owning a yacht until I found this! It looks like it is possible to go "fully" green and not actually use the diesel generator despite having it there, like that one guy I mentioned.

On a sunny day or for short periods of time you could still cruise really fast for short periods and then recharge via solar, it seems the only real problem is if you want to go consistently fast or take really long trips where you keep moving for days in ongoingly dreary weather.

Even when you do use the diesel generator you can just use it on reduced power to charge the batteries while running off battery power and still last a really long time before having to re-fuel! You also still wouldn't be using an engine, generating noise or expelling all those fumes!

All things considered, having a diesel generator which you could plan to have just for emergencies while ordinarily relying on clean energy seems a pretty worthy trade-off for safety at sea!
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salemandreus3 years ago
Juran Another interesting factor is the power of solar compared to the other alternatives, which they discovered when they did their research.
In one of the articles they mention testing Solar against wind and hydrogenation and it being far superior particularly at lower speeds which, practically speaking, would still be important for everyday operations even for the most speed-hungry among us!

Considering the noise wind turbines make and, as you mentioned, how invasive (and probably inconvenient in terms of height management going under a bridge) and what an eyesore they are, being able to use solar for the main power generator is quite a game-changing factor!

They don't have a main mast or sails either because they just don't need them (plus they'd interfere with the solar and provide unnecessary weight - bizarrely though, some still people seem to want to add sails just for show despite this! 😂).
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Regenerative wind turbine on a boat

jnikola Nov 17, 2021
Inspired by the Spook's session on rain gutter energy generation, I continued watching the cool Youtube guy in his adventures. One of them was a wind turbine on a car.
The guy installed, adjusted, tested, and measured the generated power from the front-installed car wind turbine powered by the wind created while driving. He managed to create 2000 Watts of power by converting the mechanical force of the propeller at approximately 120 km/h (70 knots). No boat can sail that fast, so I don't encourage people to buy and test the wind turbines on their boats just yet. But if we manage to produce 1/10th of the power at a sailing speed of 6 knots, that's could still be a significant amount of power, especially if more of them can be installed. This way, we could use the power used to sail at a certain speed to start the propeller due to the wind and regenerate a part of it. It would work like regenerative breaks on cars.
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General comments

Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 years ago
Something like this maybe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbE5aEVTVDs
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