Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Rockin’ the Boat

The Hudson River Maritime Museum’s 100% solar-powered tour boat Solaris, formerly known as the Solar Sal-44, is on the Rondout Creek in Kingston, NY. Photo credit: Hudson River Maritime Museum.

Jenna Batchelder

As summer draws closer and the weather gets nicer, boating season will begin. Many people are looking into purchasing boats. A huge concern for the environmentally conscious consumer is the large amount of fossil fuels required to power even the smallest of motorboats, not to mention the massive cost of the fuel. However, the fun of shared trips to the lake or a solo fishing trip is now attainable without all the guilt with new hybrid, solar, and electric-powered boats.

San Francisco is at the forefront of hybrid boat technology, housing the largest green energy boat, the 600 passenger Enhydra, at the San Francisco Pier 43 ½. The Enhydra’s aluminum monohull is equipped with a lithium battery-electric hybrid propulsion system that allows the ship to sail for extended amounts of time in electric mode. The 128-foot boat was built by All American Marine of Bellingham, WA and is the largest hybrid cruise boat in North America. It is one of five vessels operated by Red and White Fleet, currently owned by Tom Escher. Escher has been described as a true visionary, and plans to convert to a zero-emissions fleet by the year 2025. The Enhydra exceeded the design criteria during trials and was certified for 300 passengers on the third deck by the U.S. Coast Guard, 50% more than originally projected. The hybrid system itself performed 40% better than expected as well, maintaining stability and speed while reducing emissions considerably. Red and White Fleet has high hopes for the Enhydra, and what this new technology could mean for the environment.

Another option for green-energy-fueled boats is solar. Captain David Borton, visionary and builder of the large solar-powered boat Solar Sal saw the need for a clean energy alternative to polluting cargo boats in 1974 during the energy crisis. His vision was to convert many of the boats on the Hudson River in New York State from fossil fuel to solar. First, he built his personal 25-foot solar powered boat that he keeps in the Adirondacks on a small lake that doesn’t allow gas-powered vehicles, but he always dreamed of a larger project. Thus was born Solar Sal, a 40-foot wooden cargo vessel built by Borton and volunteers from the community. Borton has built a few other smaller solar powered boats, but Solar Sal was his ultimate accomplishment. With unlimited sun, the solar model is very efficient without the downside of pollution, loud motors, or nasty fumes. Borton has plans to build a fleet of solar-powered boats both for cargo use and for tourism. Solar Sal revolutionizes water travel sustainability, powered by 16 solar panels at a capacity of five kilowatts, or about 6 ½ horsepower. Like electric boats, Solar Sal runs a bit slowly, around four miles per hour. She was recently purchased by the Hudson River Maritime Museum (HRMM) and will be used to give water tours beginning in 2019. The museum also elected to rename the boat, Ellie Burhans, development and communications director for the museum said, with “input from the Hudson River community, Trustees of the Hudson River Maritime Museum, and local dignitaries. The newly named Solaris will make a great addition to the HRMM, showcasing both a piece of the Hudson’s past and its future.

Solar and hybrid powered boats may not be the perfect fit for speed demons, but for any leisure lovers looking to cut down on pollution, they are a great investment opportunity. You can read more about Solaris (formerly Solar Sal) in past issues of G.E.T. at and

Don’t forget how much fun it also is to get out on the water in a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board. Of course, they are all powered by muscle and not motors of any kind and are totally fossil-fuel free!

Jenna Batchelder is a 21-year-old climate change activist and passionate clean-energy supporter. She is excited to be writing for Green Energy Times and encourages all young adults to become more involved in activism.

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