Solar boats are becoming a hugely popular choice for eco-friendly sailing. They’re quiet, can sail great distances without needing to stop for fuel, produce no carbon emissions, and do not rely on fossil fuels.
So, how do solar boats work? What are the benefits? And what are the best solar boats on the market?
In this guide, we cover: how solar boats work, the benefits of using solar-powered boats, and six amazing solar boats to buy in 2023.
Let’s dive right in!
How Do Solar Boats Work?
In recent years, solar panel and rechargeable battery technology have improved dramatically. Panels are lighter, stronger, and more efficient.
Batteries are more compact, more efficient, and weigh considerably less than they did in the past. Both batteries and panels now last longer and cost less than they used to.
These advances in technology and a growing interest in eco-friendly sailing have shifted the development of solar yachts from idealists’ dreams to the mainstream.
So, how exactly do solar boats work?
Solar boats use solar energy to power their motors, navigation systems, and onboard electronics, and appliances.
Solar panels mounted on the boat harvest solar power from the sun and send it to a charge controller, which controls the flow of electricity to a bank of rechargeable (usually lithium-ion) batteries.
From the batteries, power is sent to the electric motors, navigation systems and appliances via an inverter, which converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Most appliances like kettles, microwaves, and hair dryers use AC.
A solar system can be added to any boat, making it a hybrid or even just to supplement a little power using a renewable resource.
Solar is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions, reduce your fuel costs and increase the distance you can sail without stopping to refuel.
However, if you’re looking to buy a solar boat that is designed and built specifically for solar sailing, there are some really great options to consider.
What are the Benefits of Using a Solar Powered Boat?
When it comes to solar boats, there are some great benefits and they’re not limited to renewable energy and fewer carbon emissions:
- No reliance on fuel – diesel generators can be used as an emergency back up but they’re not needed for everyday sailing or electricity generation.
- Unlimited range: when batteries are constantly recharged by the sun, there is no need to stop to refuel and you can keep going indefinitely.
- No noise and no fumes: as there is no engine, there is no noise and no diesel fumes. This makes the experience of sailing a solar boat much more peaceful.
- No pollution: on a solar boat, there is no engine producing noise pollution, no carbon or greenhouse gas emissions, and no risk of fuel or oil spills.
- More space: the absence of engines frees up a lot of space. Electric motors and batteries can be housed anywhere on the boat and do not take up as much space as engines and machinery, which means room for more storage compartments to keep your gear or equipment.
- Lower running costs: beyond the initial investment and occasional maintenance, solar is completely free. This cuts out fuel costs and ongoing engine maintenance costs.
- Less maintenance: solar panels need to be cleaned regularly to be most effective but that is the only ongoing maintenance needed. Once a good solar system is installed, it generally needs very little maintenance.
- No limitations on electrical use: with solar, the supply is free and if you’re not pushing the motors to travel at speed you will often have more electricity than you need. This means you don’t need to watch your power consumption and you can run your air conditioning as much as you want!
- Options to sell power back to shore stations: if you regularly generate more power than you need from your solar, you can share it with others or sell it back to the grid at some shore stations.
The benefits you will enjoy from a solar boat vary, depending on your location and the specifications of the boat you choose. There are also some downsides, for example, solar boats are generally slower and the initial investment is quite high.
That said, solar boats are well worth the investment! So, let’s look at some of the awesome solar boats available on the market in 2023:
6 Awesome Solar Boats
There are many great solar-powered boats to choose from and we have selected six of the best to feature here. We have chosen a range of sizes, styles, and price points so there should be something for everyone on this list!
1. Silent Yachts – Silent 55
The Silent 55 by Silent Yachts is one of their smaller solar yachts and can be handled by two people, with or without any additional crew.
It is spacious, and beautifully designed to be as economical as possible without losing any of the luxuries of their larger boats. With three to six cabins and all the amenities you can imagine, it offers everything you need to live on board permanently.
Check out this video by Kara and Nate to see their experience of the Silent 55 and meet the couple behind the iconic Silent Yachts company:
Where to Buy: Silent Yachts
Price: From €1.97 Mio.
2. Serenity Yachts – Serenity 64
The Serenity 64 is a solar-powered hybrid yacht with a diesel engine. It can run on either, giving it a combination of unlimited range using solar or faster cruising using diesel.
It is a spacious and luxurious yacht, with plenty of living space and four cabins with en suite bathrooms. The Serenity is the smaller of the two solar-powered boats offered by Serenity. The Serenity 74 is bigger and more luxurious, with an interior designed by Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing.
Take a look at this video by Serenity Yachts to see more of the Serenity 64:
Where to Buy: Serenity Yachts
Price: From $3.3 million
3. Sunreef Yachts – Eco 80 Sail Catamaran
Sunreef Yachts Eco sail catamarans take eco-friendly sailing to new heights. Their luxury solar yachts use a special ‘solar skin’ that covers any composite structure on the yacht to provide solar power from every angle.
They also use hydro and wind power to supplement the solar and have a sail. The green power generated on their innovative solar boats is enough to propel the boat, run all the onboard appliances and charge the electric water toys.
Taking their commitment to the environment up a notch, they use recycled and reclaimed materials, non-toxic paints, and natural fibers.
Check out the video below by SUNREEF YACHTS OFFICIAL on a day aboard the Sunreef 80 Eco Catamaran:
Where to Buy: Sunreef Yachts Eco
Price: Price on Request (depends on the custom specifications)
4. Soel Yachts – Soel Senses 48
The Soel Senses 48 is a 48ft solar electric catamaran. It was designed to be solar-powered and is slender and lightweight to make it more economical.
There are two sleeping berths for two people each, and another four people can sleep in the salon. The interior and the exterior are both sleek and modern.
Everything on the Soel Senses 48 has been designed thoughtfully to make it as comfortable and functional as possible. It is faster than other solar yachts, due to its smaller size and innovative design.
Check out this video by Jim Waltz to see a little more of the Soel Senses 48:
Where to Buy: Soel Yachts
Price: Price on Request (depends on the custom specifications)
5. Azura Marine – Aquanima 40
The Aquanima by Azura Marine is powered entirely solar and features some innovative adaptations that make it even more economical and eco-friendly. For example, rainwater collection from the solar panels on the roof and the fact that excess solar can be sold back to shore stations.
The Aquanima is beautifully designed and the interior is clean and modern. It has two double guest cabins and two single crew cabins. It is one of the most cost-effective options if you’re looking for a purely solar-powered boat.
Take a look at this video by Azura Marine to see the Aquanima in action:
Where to Buy: Azura Marine
Price: From €523,000
6. Silent Yachts – Silent 80 Tri-Deck Solar Catamaran
The Silent 80 Tri-Deck Solar Catamaran is a superyacht that is completely customizable. It offers huge amounts of space, with three decks that can be customized to suit the owner’s needs.
The top deck can be open or enclosed and can be used as additional living space or a luxury master suite, opening onto a private outdoor space. Both open and closed versions include four to six customizable cabins.
As a solar-powered yacht, it has more space where the engines would normally be and that storage space can be used to house water toys and additional recreational equipment.
Check out this video by Yachts For Sale to see more on the Silent 80 Tri-Deck Catamaran, how it is built and what sets it apart:
Where to Buy: Silent Yachts
Price: From €5.51 Mio.
Final Thoughts on Solar Boats
As solar and battery technology has improved, and boat owners have become more conscious of their environmental impact, solar boats have become both more viable and more desirable.
Modern solar boats, from small solar-powered yachts to solar superyachts, are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to make them economical, easy to maintain, and a pleasure to use.
They’re also becoming increasingly affordable, and we hope, will be a mainstream option available to every eco-conscious sailor soon!
Environmental Protection: The Environmental Impacts of Boating
Custom Marine Products: A Cruiser’s Guide to Selecting and Sizing a Solar Charging System
Knysna Yacht Company: Top Things to Know About Yacht Solar Power
Yachting Monthly: Sailing with Solar Power: A Practical Guide
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a solar boat work?
Solar boats use renewable energy from the sun to run their motors, electrical systems, and onboard appliances. They do not use petrol/diesel generators or engines and meet all their power needs using solar panels and batteries. Read the full guide for more details on how a solar boat works.
What are solar boats used for?
Solar boats are used for any boating purpose but they’re most frequently used for recreational sailing, such as yachts and catamarans, as ferries and tour boats, or as houseboats. Solar boats are generally slower and less powerful than fuel-powered boats. In situations where speed is needed, solar is usually supplemented with wind-sail or fuel-driven motors. Read the full guide for more on solar boats.
What is a solar yacht?
A solar yacht is a yacht that uses solar energy to power its electric motors and all the electronic equipment on board. Solar yachts do not rely on diesel or petrol engines and run solely on solar power. They do sometimes have other power sources, like backup diesel generators or engines. Read the full guide for more on solar yachts.