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Veil lifted on giant solar-powered boat

The largest solar-powered boat of its kind in the world, Switzerland’s PlanetSolar, was unveiled to the public on Thursday in Kiel, Germany.

The boat, which measures 30-metres long by 15-metres wide, features 500-square-metres of solar panels that will power it on a trip around the globe starting in 2011.

“The project is meant to make a vital contribution to acquainting people with Switzerland’s innovative capacity in the domain of renewable energies,” the Swiss foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry has contributed SFr300,000 ($276,319) to the project. The cantons of Neuchâtel and Vaud are also sponsors.

Raphaël Domjan, a mountain guide and adventurer from Neuchâtel, is spearheading the project. He and French seaman Gérard d’Aboville will pilot the boat on an around-the-world journey that will begin in the Mediterranean in April 2011. The team will head to North America, Australia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates an at average speed of approximately eight knots (15km/h).

Domjan said he began working on the project in 2004 and secured the first sponsors in February 2008. PlanetSolar was built in Germany and will sail along the European coast to the Mediterranean Sea in summer 2010.

In a similar vein, André Borschberg and Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard are working on a solar-powered aeroplane, called Solar Impulse, for an around-the-world flight.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR