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A solar panel basically acts as a battery charger that uses sunlight and turns it into an electrical DC charge.

Light hits the cells, activating the surface electrons. The electrons become agitated and jump from one atom to the next, creating a chain reaction in the form of a DC charge. Energy is stored in batteries to be used at a later time. Solar Panels can very easily be adapted to work towards boats. Solar Panels can be placed on bimini tops, radar arches, or on the deck. Flexible panels can be mounted anywhere on the boat using bungee cords or straps. They can be used for Maintenance charging on moorings, sole-source charging for boats without auxiliary engines, and augmenting engine-based charging on cruiser boats. Marine solar systems have three major components: Solar Panels Charge Controller or Regulator to prevent over-charging Batteries to store the charge.

The charge can be used to run 12vDC appliances (lights, pumps, fans, etc.) or can be inverted to run 120AC appliances (TVs, radios, satellite dishes, and microwaves). There are two main types of solar panels: Crystalline and Thin Film. Crystalline Panels have a multitude of dark reflective blue or grey water-like cells. They are guaranteed for up to twenty years. Thin Film panels, on the contrary, are guaranteed only for 2-5 years. However, they can be made more flexible than Crystalline. They are made with amorphous silicone cells, which are a uniform dark brown or grey color. They are only about 50% as effective as Crystalline cells, but they are more responsive in low-light situations. Solar Panels will work in direct sunlight, but the amount of energy is proportional to the amount of sunlight taken in. There is actually a boat made completely of solar panels. It is named The Turanor PlanetSolar. Turanor translates from Elvish to mean power of the sun. The boat is a 115 ft. catamaran and weights nearly one hundred tons. It has 512 spare meters (5500 feet) of photovoltaic cells and houses 8.5 tons of lithium batteries, which are all located in the two hulls. This boat was sponsored by the Swiss government and is being used to study the effects of climate change on the Gulf Stream current. The solar panels retract when the ship is in port and spread like wings to catch the sunlight when the ship is moving. The ship makes absolutely no noise or vibration when it is sailing.

Though the ship emits no polluting substances, there are downsides. The boat can run for 72 hours off of saved power, but the ship must avoid the clouds during the day. Therefore, a boat captain cannot just go from point A to point B directly. The average speed of the boat is only 5 knots, which is about the average speed of a sailboat and it can only house 9 crew members. The boat takes about few days to fully charge. Clearly, a completely solar-powered boat doesnt seem to be practical just yet. However, a boat that runs on oil and sunlight is.

Resources: D'Orazio, Dante. "The Verge." The Verge. Vox Media, 22 June 2013. Web. 9 Sept. 2013. <http://www.theverge.com/2013/6/22/4454980/ms-turanor-planetsolar-solar-poweredboat-photo-essay>. "Solar Panels." BoatUS News. Boat Owner's Association of The United States, n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2013. <http://www.boatus.com/boattech/articles/solar-panels.asp>. "World's Largest All-solar-powered Boat Shines in NYC." PHYS.ORG. N.p., 13 June 2013. Web. 9 Sept. 2013. <http://phys.org/news/2013-06-world-largest-all-solar-powered-boatnyc.html>.