Africa’s first solar-powered boat set to sail from Durban

The Siyahamba Solar Boat. Picture: Supplied

The Siyahamba Solar Boat. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 21, 2024


Durban — In a week, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) will launch the Siyahamba Solar Boat, a ‘first of its kind’ in Africa.

DUT, in collaboration with the Energy and Water Sector Education Training Authority (EWSETA), will host the official launch of its Siyahamba Solar Boat, a ‘first of its kind’ in Africa.

According to the university, the solar-powered boat was established by DUT students and staff housed at the DUT Energy Technology Station known as the KZN Industrial Energy Efficient Training and Resource Centre (IEETR).

The Siyahamba Solar Boat will compete internationally in the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge (MEBC) in Europe, on July 6.

DUT was elected as one of the 15 finalists out of the 100 entries which entered the prestigious competition.

The boat has an overall length of 5.5m, a width of 2.4m and a height of 1.2m. The main body is made from a carbon fibre composite structure reinforced with aluminium. Estimated total weight is 100 kilograms. It has a PV array of 1.3 kilowatts to charge a 1.46-kilowatt-hour battery bank to power its 4-kilowatt torqeedo electric motor.

KZN Industrial Energy Efficient Training and Resource Centre (IEETR) team members showcasing the Siyahamba Solar Boat. Picture: Supplied

KZN IEETR manager Professor Ian Lazarus said the boat was built to compete in solar boat challenges like the MEBC.

“DUT’s IEETR centre submitted their unique and innovative design of their solar boat to the event MEBC organisers, which included student participation. Based on the design, our application to participate in this prestigious event was accepted as one of the 15 out of about 100 entries. Challenges such as the MEBC have been established to promote renewable energy and innovation as alternatives to keep our oceans and environment clean,” Lazarus said.

“Also providing mainly university teams from all over the world the opportunity to compete and showcase their design, innovation, technological and sporting strengths in a world-class international renewable energy boat racing event.”

Lazarus believes DUT’s participation in the competition could be the first in Africa.

He indicated that their main objective in competing would be to innovate, learn and inspire fellow DUT students and the KZN industry.

Lazarus revealed that this project exposed the team to a high level of creativity and engineering freedom, which allowed them to build something unique.

“The Siyahamba Solar Boat project creates awareness in our society, nationally and internally as it showcases an alternative mode of transport using innovative renewable energy technologies. Most developed nations look at large-scale maritime transport for future use, our focus is on more affordable transport initiatives, especially in eco-sensitive areas of the world, where the sun is abundant, and fuel is expensive and harmful to the ecology,” Lazarus said.

“The application of renewable energy to the boating industry champions the cause for a cleaner and more efficient industry and environment.”

Due to the innovative nature of the solar boat, Lazarus is certain that this project will provide the ideal opportunity for ongoing student projects and applied postgraduate research. He highlighted that the Siyahamba Solar Boat speaks to the DNA strands of DUT’s ENVISION2030 strategy, where the university is working towards being ‘people-centred and engaged’ and being ‘innovative and entrepreneurial’.

The launch of the Siyahamba Solar Boat will happen at the Point Yacht Club, Durban Harbour on Friday, April 26 from 11am to 2pm.

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