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India will get its first sea-going solar fishing boats by Dec 2021 at Vypeen and Munambam in Kerala. It is funded by Shell Foundation which is the charity arm of British-Dutch petroleum company. A total of five boats are in various stages of development and the works are done by a startup named NavAlt Solar and Electric Boats. Shell Foundation is supporting the project with Rs 5 crore, which includes the cost of developing the boats as well as financing the buyers to cover the extra cost compared to a traditional boat.
CEO of NavAlt, Sandith Thandasherry said there are over 2.5 lakh small fishing boats in India and 1.13 tonnes of CO2 are released/tonne of live weight of marine fish netted. He also mentioned that as per estimates, a conventional small boat will consume 2,500 litres of fuel/year, which results in 5-6 tonnes of carbon emissions/year. Multiplied by 2.5 lakh boats in India, it gives the size of carbon emission, which is massive in terms of environmental impact.
NavAlt had launched a solar water taxi and the country’s first solar ferry in Kerala.
Mr. Sandith said that convincing fisher folk to switch to a new technology with which they are unfamiliar is a hurdle. To understand the needs of the fishermen, Thandasherry went to Gujarat in 201X. There, he converted a conventional 32-ft wooden boat by retrofitting solar panels and motor. Apparently, it worked functionally, but economically it struggled because the drag of the conventional boat was too high. Hence, NavAlt went on to design a lighter boat.
He added – “We had two designs – a single-hull one which could land on the beach and a double-hull one that could enter the sea from the lake where it is moored. On these boats, he fitted a modular energy box that could easily be unmounted and taken home to use as a power source.”
While a conventional boat costs around Rs 2.5 lakh, NavAlt is planning to sell their solar ones at Rs 10 lakh.