By Published On: July 17, 2009

California’s major seaports have been exploring ways for years to become environmentally-friendly. Their model ship literally just came in. A car carrier ship fitted with hundreds of solar panels--the first of its kind in the world--made it’s first-ever call at the Port of Long Beach July 1. The 656-foot, 60,000 ton Auriga Leader, which made its maiden voyage in December, arrived at the Toyota terminal at the Port of Long Beach at the beginning of the month. It carried Toyota, Lexus, and Scion vehicles from Japanese factories for U.S. distribution. The 328 solar panels housed on the ship are part of a technology demonstration project by Toyota Motors and NYK to cut diesel fuel consumption and reduce air pollution. The panels, which are installed on the carrier’s upper deck, can generate up to 40 kW while at berth or at sea to complement the vessel’s 440 volt grid. Solar panels have been used on large vessels before, according to NYK, but their use had been limited to power for the ship’s living quarters. The Auriga Leader’s solar generation, however, is unique in that it supplements the onboard grid. The ship represents “the next logical step” in the shipping industry’s environmental efforts and “is a perfect example of how the maritime industry is voluntarily finding new and innovative ways to be responsible stewards of the environment,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Dick Steinke. The ship, which can travel at up to 21 knots and carry as many as 6,200 automobiles, is the first car carrier in the world to utilize solar technology, according to the ship’s owner-operator, NYK Line. The solar panel array only amounts to about eight percent of the ship’s electrical energy consumption, but NYK is aiming to achieve a 50 percent reduction in car carrier ship energy consumption by 2010 through a combination of measures, including solar power generation, ship operation improvements, and hull redesigns. The ship’s captain, Eugen State, said that the Auriga Leader may be the first of its kind, but it won’t be the last. NYK has plans to build a so-called “super-eco ship” by 2030 that will be equipped with 31,000 square meters of soft and clear solar panels which would generate an average of 250 watts per square meter and a peak of 1,400W/square meter. NYK is committed, State said, to initiatives that benefit both the environment and economy. “To quote a very famous song by Michael Jackson,” he said, “Let us heal the world; make it a better place for you and me and the entire human race.”

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now