Stay-fishing boats to tap solar power

T. Nandakumar
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Pilot project to save fuel, reduce carbon dioxide emissions

New power source:Solar panels will be fitted on the stern of the boat and a battery installed beneath the deck.
New power source:Solar panels will be fitted on the stern of the boat and a battery installed beneath the deck.

As many as 200 stay-fishing boats operating from Marthandanthurai and Neerodi in Tamil Nadu and Pozhiyoor in Thiruvananthapuram may soon use solar energy to power their onboard lights and navigation and communication equipment.

The Association of Deep Sea Going Artisanal Fishermen (ADSGAF) and the Bay of Bengal Programme Intergovernmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO) are gearing up for a pilot project to equip the vessels with solar panels and storage batteries. Powered by outboard engines, the stay-fishing boats with open decks have a range of 60 to 70 nautical miles and remain at sea for up to five days.

ADSGAF Chief Executive Vincent Jain said moves were afoot to kit out one boat with the equipment. The solar panels would be fitted on the stern of the boat and the battery installed beneath the deck. The fabrication and installation work were estimated to cost less than Rs.30,000 a boat. Apart from the lights, the panels would also power the GPS (Global Positioning System) equipment and VHF radios.

The trial run, Mr. Jain said, was expected to be launched from Neerodi on January 24. He said the project would help the fishermen save fuel and cut down on carbon dioxide emissions.

Meanwhile, the two agencies are preparing to follow up their trial run on deep sea-going boats that spend 25 to 30 days at sea. Mr. Jain said 15 more deep sea-going boats operating from Thoothoor in Tamil Nadu would soon be fitted with solar panels, following the positive feedback received from the trial run launched on November 30.

“The only hiccup we had was with the storage battery that had to be replaced with a more robust one capable of withstanding conditions at sea. The skipper of the boat said he had saved 150 litres of diesel over the nine days spent at sea. Other fishermen marvelled at the sight of the boat with all its lights on at night.”

A survey by the ADSGAF showed that fishermen from Thoothoor spent up to 70 per cent of their total working capital requirement for a voyage on fuel.

Most fishermen kept the engine running continuously while at sea, fearing they would be stranded if it failed to start after being switched off.

The solar panel keeps the battery charged, thereby obviating the need to keep the engine running while the boat is anchored. It is estimated that by switching off the engine for three hours, a fishing boat can save 30 litres of fuel a day.

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