Kochi: The trial run of the country’s first solar ferry ‘Aditya’ was successfully held here on Friday, paving the way for its deployment by the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) in the 2.5 km Vaikom-Thavanakadavu section in Alapuzha district by December-end. The 75-seater solar boat was constructed by Navalt, a joint venture of two French companies and a Kochi-based Indian company, at a cost of `2 crore. The 20 metre-long and 7 metre-wide boat made of fiber glass can cruise at a maximum speed of 7.5 knots. The boat, powered by two 20 KW motors, cruises without any noise and minimal vibration compared to the normal diesel ferries.
“On a bright sunny day it can cruise for over six hours without the need for external charge, thanks to the 78 rooftop solar panels. However, it also has a 700 kg 50 kW lithium-ion battery to store energy for cloudy days or running at night. There is an option to charge the batteries from the grid as well,” said 38-year old Malayali IIT-ian Sandith Thandassery, founder of NavAlt Solar and Electrical Boats Ltd.
“The ferry meets the safety standards of the Indian Register of Shipping and is safe for operation in any of the state water bodies. The trials in the Vaikom-Thavanakadavu section will start from next week and we plan to start the services by the second half of next month,” said Shaji V Nair, SWTD Director. The solar boat can save upto Rs 1.60 lakh a year towards fuel prices when compared to diesel boats and has a life of 15 years. Navalt would provide training to 20 SWTD officials on boat operation and maintenance. “The maintenance will be done by us for the first five years,” Sandith said.
Proposal submitted for fifty solar ferries, says minister A K Saseendran
The State Water Transport Department (SWTD) would convert its diesel ferries to eco- friendly solar powered ones in a step by step manner, Transport Minister A.K. Saseen-dran said on Friday. “The government has already started efforts towards this. A memorandum has been submitted to the Centre to allot funds for building 50 solar boats. Further, 14 catamarans under construction will have the solar option too. A fund of `22 crore has already been allotted for this,” the minister said, while attending the trial run of the country’s first solar ferry ‘Aditya’ at Aroor near here.
“Projects on renewable energy get tremendous support from the Central Government. The State Government has submitted a detailed project for manufacturing and introducing 50 solar ferries for active consideration of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy,” he said. While a diesel boat of the same class costs Rs 1.5 crore, the solar ferry can be constructed at around Rs 1.9 crore. However, while the maintenance cost of a solar boat per year is Rs 1.4 lakh (towards electricity), a diesel boat comes to Rs 3 lakh.
“The solar ferry boat can break even in three years. The other advantages are that there is no air, water and noise pollution,” said Sandith Thandassery, founder of NavAlt Solar and Electrical Boats Ltd, which was behind the construction of ‘Aditya’. Meanwhile, the water transport department from states like West Bengal have already evinced interest in the solar ferries. “We’ve even got inquiries from the Kochi Metro Rail Ltd which plans to deploy 78 boats as part of the ‘Water Metro’ project,” he said. A team of KMRL officials also inspected ‘Aditya’, docked at Bristol Yard in Aroor, on Friday.