Updated 05/25/2012 05:54 PM
Solar boat cruises the canal
If you see a boat with solar panels on the roof, it's not your imagination, it's the power of the sun. Boat builders from the Southwest are testing their solar boat this week. They're traveling from Buffalo to Albany in the name of research and history: It's the first solar boat ride along the Erie Canal. Our Kat De Maria caught up with the guys at a stop in Brewerton Friday.
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BREWERTON, N.Y. -- It's a beautiful, sunny day on the water. And more than just providing a great atmosphere, the sun is powering Bob Meacham's boat.
Meacham and his business partners are testing the prototype of the Solar Star 23 this week along the Erie Canal.
"It's going great. It's performing better than we even expected," Meacham said.
The guys started their journey near Buffalo. Nearly 200 miles and six days brought them through Brewerton Friday. The guys have been working to perfect the solar boat over the past couple of years.
"We were in the big boat business for some time, building big oceangoing yachts and house boats, river boats. And we could see the future with the price of gas and the weight of the boats people couldn't afford them anymore," said partner Jack Caple.
Now they've gone in the complete opposite direction with the Solar Star 23, which is lightweight, affordable and green. The boat has a quiet electric motor, powered by batteries.
"These are the batteries down here. Solar panels charge the batteries," said production engineer Bruce Walton.
To capture the most sunlight, you can adjust the angle of the roof. That stores up extra energy in the battery for when it's cloudy out or even dark.
"This will not replace a ski boat. But it will replace if you just want to go out and cruise the canals or cruise the lake or whatever at a relatively slow speed. And it's basically maintenance free or very low maintenance and low cost," Meacham said.
Meacham, a former pilot, says he picked the Erie Canal because of its diverse conditions. They've tested the solar boat in the sun, the shade and even at night. They say they've been getting a lot of attention and even for long-time boat builders, having the time of their lives.
"This is really the first time we've spent any time on the water. It's been very enjoyable," Caple said.
If you're interested in following the guys' progress, they're posting updates on their Facebook page, Solar Star Boats.