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The Cross Channel Challenger (CCC) is a project currently on the drawing board that is looking for backing to develop a coastal cruiser that is zero carbon.


We should first of all stress, that this project has been costed to come in at around the 350k mark [100%] (including the time, facilities and hire provided by the leads) as a real bargain basement starter package.


Hence the vessel does not include the latest lithium batteries or higher output solar cells, nor exotic materials in the build - and the hull design is very simple. It is a budget vessel to allow us to get the ball rolling. The vessel is also considered small for cross channel work with a hull compromise. Whereas as the length of a hull grows and the hydrodynamics improve, so does the efficiency, so bear this is mind. Things can only get better.


The theoretical performance is therefore lower than we would like, but is considered to be a useful stepping stone. For example we might expect 16.7kW of harvesting power, for around 12 tons of vessel, multiplying the current benchmark of .98kW/ton x 1.42 to give 1.39kW/ton. Not exactly startling, but a nice little gain.


For cross channel work, the operational speed might be raised to 15 - 20 knots using part of a (shore-charge) reserve, supplemented with live incoming energy. A study as to the possibilities would be part of this project.



Solar panel arrays to harvest clean electricity

 Welding construction ship building

High efficiency propellers to convert energy to thrust

Electric propulsion motors for zero carbon boats

Hydraulics actuators to control steering and energy harvesting aparatus

Large 334 m2 solar arrays that track the sun autonomously.


Weight saving 5083 alloy trimaran hull for a corrosion free life.


Propellers, shafts and transmission designed for improved efficiency.


High efficiency dc brushless motors for propulsion and reliable operation.


Computer automated

hydraulic actuators.



 Satellites for route planning and course keeping




Wind generators harvesting energy to take advantage of trade winds


World navigation event to demonstrate superior satellite route planning.



SDG 13 - Designed to aspire to the UN sustainable development goals.



20kW wind turbine boom mounted to track wind autonomously.





It's a trimaran that is zero carbon, propelled only by the sun and the wind, following on from the development of a land based rig in 2019 (yet to be completed) that showed us a path to what might be possible with relatively little in terms of R&D investment.




A British team comprised of Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd and the Cleaner Ocean Foundation Ltd working with subcontractors and academia. They are set to build this low budget coastal cruiser with cross-channel capability if the specification is upgraded. The hull design though, stays the same.

The in-house project team includes: 

Nelson Kay: CAD design (and where needed) welding fabrication and mechanics 
Danny Goldsmith: Naval architect 
Lloyd Stebbings: Time served boat builder 
Chris Close: Project management, mechanical
Briggette Dusart: Project administration


Subcontractors: Details available on request.


The CCC will be managed on a not for profit basis, with a view to demonstrating a formula for blue water ocean transports, the aim being to interest commercial ship builders. The concept may be scaled up from the at present medium boat size, to cargo and cruise ships. The secret being the power to weight ratio, balanced against load carrying capacity. It's all about delivering the goods.




Aiming for a start on this project in 2020, the actual start date is dependent on raising sufficient interest that materials, manufacturing and equipment costs are covered by grants or crowd funding. Project management, leadership, and other facilities will be contributed by the leads.



END ELEVATION - In this drawing the solar wings are shown folded out horizontally as though the sun was overhead. The wing arrays, comprised of twin 17 panel units, can track the sun, 34 moveable panels in all. The central array comprised of 24 panels, is fixed to the superstructure. Please note that drawings of the Cross Channel Challenger are Design Copyright September 8 2019, and the hull configuration and energy harvesting system are patent protected.





With the climate emergency likely to worsen without some immediate action, vessels that are zero carbon should be put to good use wherever possible.


At the present time there appears to be no system for marine craft that would allow for the intelligent dual harvesting of solar and wind energy in such autonomous combination, so as to be able to provide sufficient energy for propulsion at speeds of up to 10 knots for coastal work and 15 knots for channel crossings. Ten knots being a practical working speed in terms of cargo delivery services - with long range zero carbon cruising as a possibility with further (long range) development of the concept.

This research is considered to be a stepping stone to the design of larger craft with higher specifications to increase power to weight ratios. The lessons learned from sea trials could be used to advance the science of marine transport to the point where, eventually, ferries might operate directly from solar and wind power. Where at the moment, the only solar powered craft that has ocean going capability is the PlanetSolar, but that the Swiss built vessel, though excellent after consideration of the design limitations, offers only .98kW peak per ton using lithium batteries. PlanetSolar did not include computer controlled energy harvesting apparatus. The main moveable solar panel arrays were winched out manually, horizontally on rails and could not change angular position to face the sun. There was one smaller rear mounted panel that moved hydraulically. PlanetSolar did not include a wind turbine to harvest wind energy at night or when the sun was not shining. 

The PlanetSolar was a converted catamaran from a New Zealand ferry design and as such performed reasonably well. The presently proposed hull design based on a trimaran configuration, allows a for light weight superstructure that is revolves around the need for as much of the solar arrays as possible to track the sun. Tracking the sun is a well known method of increasing energy from land based solar farms. This project extends that idea, taking it out to sea. It is a logical progression linked to an innovative way of incorporating a wind turbine with computer controls such to complement the solar panels. 




Where the International Maritime Organization are aiming for a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for 2030, we should like to develop an automated solar and wind energy harvesting system for boats, that may be up-scaled for ships, to provide power to weight ratios between 1.12kW continuous and 3.6kW peak, per ton of vessel (specs dependent) Such targets require computer automated solar and wind turbine tracking to minimise shading, lightweight structures and integrated hydraulics

The project is to construct a low cost/spec small scale system and operate and debug such a system on land and then transfer the system once demonstrated on land, to a small budget vessel for sea trials. 

Alignment with Clean Maritime Plan priorities and/or Maritime 2050 Zero Emission Shipping sub-theme
The Climate Change Act 2008 as amended by the Order of 2019 sets targets for reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 2050. The IMO's targets are very similar aiming for a 50% reduction if GHGs by 2050 as encompassed in the UK's Maritime 2050 policy, Reference: Chris Grayling 




How much money might operators save in swapping their gas-guzzling coastal hoppers for clean solar powered vessels all depends on the cost of building this kind of design, the cost of maintaining the solar panels, the eventual cost of replacement batteries and any tax breaks that might be offered to help kickstart the zero carbon revolution.


Doubtless there will be more on this as the project develops and policy makers push forward their clean ocean agendas.




FAST SOLAR - Delft University (Netherlands) set an offshore speed record of 35kph in this solar powered trimaran.




The project is to design and build a small test bed incorporating moveable solar arrays and a wind turbine that may be raised, lowered and separately furled, each component being mounted on a common frame, with hydraulic actuators that are computer controlled to articulate individual movements.. 

Three solar panel arrays will be arranged to fold over each other, with one central fixed panel and two moveable wings that track the sun, so increasing the energy collected in any day. Each moveable array will hold 12 panels, combined with 24 fixed panels to generate 7.68kW peak from 48 panels. The moveable panel arrays will change angle to face the sun using hydraulic motors that rotate the arrays about a pivot point to provide around 200 degrees of angular change, to include a folding function (arm fold) to counter storm conditions.. 

A 2kW wind turbine will be mounted on a mast at one end of the common frame where the stabilising hulls may counteract roll. The mast may be raised and lowered and the wind turbine furled using hydraulic rams. The combined peak solar and wind generation power being 9.68kW during the day over an average of 8 hours. With 2kW being the potential for overnight generation divided by 20% average to provide 0.4kw. This energy will be stored in a bank of 12 low cost 110 amp/hour lead-acid batteries to provide 15.8kW hours of reserve energy. A production vessel would use lithium batteries to reduce weight and provide 100-150kW/hrs of reserve and a 5-10kW wind turbine arrangement, requiring exotic materials for the boom design that is not within the scope of this present proposal.. 

This system is designed for a small 15 meter vessel of between 14.5 - 20 tonnes displacement (loading dependent), for coastal operation with cross channel capability. The aim being to keep the budget for this research containable, yet still provide real-life tests. Such a vessel, suitably equipped with seats and with a higher technical specification may provide zero carbon coastal ferry services. 

One 50kW (67hp total) dc motor will power the vessel to provide ample reserve against tides, operating @ 90% efficiency to drive a conventional, large, slowly revolving propeller in a Kort nozzle. The vessel will carry a 10kW reserve motor drive unit. 

The hull of the vessel will be of welded construction in 5083 alloy, in three sections as sub-assemblies in a trimaran configuration, or stabilised mono-hull design along similar principles to the Cable & Wireless Adventurer (Nigel Irens), in that a slender hull reduces wave drag, hence propulsive power. Such slender hulls would roll unacceptably without outriggers to provide comfort for the operators. 

Light, wind speed and angular measuring sensors will provide information to a micro-computer to enable the system to autonomously harvest energy from nature. The system will prevent the wind turbines shading the solar panels when the sun is shining brightly. Conversely, when the sun is not shining, the wind turbines will take precedence, being raised to full operational height, providing wind conditions are safe. The system will be calibrated to know when conditions are not safe, when the turbine mast will be reduced. The turbines may also be furled so as to present the blades horizontal to the sea, where generation requires them to be vertical to the sea. We will not be experimenting with vertical axis turbines, where their power to weight ratio puts them at a disadvantage. Future development might include at least trialing vertical axis machines, in order to gather data where their start up speed is lower and may give them an advantage in some circumstances. 

In adverse weather conditions such as storms, the solar arrays may be folded to near one third of their total spread when operating, also presenting as horizontal to the sea, so reducing wind-age to the bare minimum. 

Part of the project is mechanical design. In particular the stressing of such a super-structure above hull height to keep structural mass low, hence the center of roll. The superstructure is designed to provide a frame with bearing points well above the waves, to allow for a degree of movement necessary for the solar arrays to be able to track the sun and for the wind turbines to be free to move away and high above the solar arrays for best turbine performance, Stressing of the moveable mast is included in this project to be able to reach far above the deck is normal operation, so that the turbine blades are operating in undisturbed air. 

Part of the project involves coding computers to track Incoming Solar Radiation (insolation) and wind energy simultaneously, with built in parameters to ensure safe loading's and limited shading, to turn the solar and wind harvesting equipment into a semi intelligent autonomous energy harvesting system. 

The computer system will employ a variety of sensors to be able to interface with the environment and use the information of the vessel's surroundings to calculate the best position for the two moveable solar arrays, in combination with the position-able wind turbine. The object of such programming is to allow each of the energy harvesting mediums to reach their maximum energy harvesting potential in any given situation. 

Given the budgetary constraints, a lead-acid battery storage system will be used consisting of 12 x 110 amp/hour marine batteries to provide 15.8kW-hours of stored energy. This will be sufficient to allow the vessel to maintain steerage for 2 hours of running time without harvesting any energy from nature. A similar mass of lithium polymer cells will provide 10 hours of running. Lithium cells are not specified due to the financial limit place on this call. Typically, commercial craft would specify high-end lithium cells. 




PLAN VIEW - This drawing shows 58 solar panels and 2 wind turbines to provide 16.7kW of generating power peak. The proposal is for 36 panels and one wind turbine for 11.8kW . The passenger area is partly enclosed and partly exposed, though the layout can be changed to provide all open seating or all closed for up to 40 passengers. Please note that these drawings are Design Copyright September 8 2019, and the hull configuration and energy harvesting system are patent protected.




Solar and wind energy systems have been used on vessels for well over a decade, but so far no harvesting system has combined the two energy sources into one compatible system at such a scale so as to become the primary propulsive force. For example, PlanetSolar had solar panels sufficient to set a world circumnavigation record in May of 2012. But, nothing more progressive has been built to date, incorporating wind turbines and the all important computer controls that makes the system autonomous, in that human crews are not needed to make the most of solar and wind power in combination.

The innovation is combining the harvesting of two natural sources, into one system that is suitable for incorporation on a suitably adapted, or purpose built ship. 

In this case a trimaran hull lends itself to the incorporation of a light-weight superstructure. Both the solar arrays and the wind turbine depend on such an elevated framework for suitable support and to allow for the mechanics to move the energy harvesting equipment to achieve a better return in relation to the investment in solar cells and a wind turbine, or turbines. The configuration, based on ordinary space-frame principles, in a ground breaking manner, is what makes the concept workable. It has not been tried previously. 

Experimentation, including the incorporation of new ideas in combination is needed to push forward the boundaries of human knowledge. By incorporating the separate elements that are known to function to some degree individually, we may identify the successful elements of the design, to be set down as a test bed for further improvements. 

In this case, the data from sea trials of a relatively under specified vessel such at that proposed, may lead to bigger and better up-scaling. Or in the alternative, the same base vessel may be performance enhanced as part of a development series, all the while improving on the basic innovation described. 

It is hoped that ship builders and fleet operators might be sufficiently encouraged by what may be achieved in this tranche of development, to want to work the technology into low carbon shipping of the future. 

Hydrogen fuel cell systems have been proposed involving dockside storage of a difficult to handle gas in liquid form, where solar and wind energy properly harvested could provide a viable alternative, meaning that long range cruising using energy directly from nature, could once again become the preferred method of transporting goods from one country to another. Any conversion, such as splitting water, and compressing and cooling a gas to form a liquid, is less efficient, even where solar and wind farms may provide the base energy free from nature. 

The present proposal seeks to define a formula by which the inefficiencies of the hydrogen fuel cell cycle may be avoided in the interests of using energy from nature efficiently.


This research and development, if it is successfully demonstrated as described, offers one potential solution to the search for long range zero carbon ships of the future. 

The project can potentially deliver on the priorities set out in the Clean Maritime Plan and/or Maritime 2050, that is part of the UK's maritime agenda for sustainable blue growth.


This research and development, if it is successfully demonstrated as described, offers one potential solution to the search for long range zero carbon ships of the future.



ENERGY SECURITY - Such development could free us from the oil based economy currently fueling global warming, amid uncertainties of supply following the attack on Saudi Aramco. Drones bombed the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia and the Khurais oil field, operated by the state-owned Saudi Aramco on the 14th of September 2019. The plants produce nearly 6% of the world's oil, and half of Saudi's oil, with the attack cutting output by 5.7 million barrels a day. Energy stability holds the potential to quell many conflicts, as does food security. Solar assisted electric cars and solar powered shipping could help to reverse climate change.




The 'Leads' will design/complete the land based experiments to include solar tracking, including steel component fabrication and experimental coastal vessel in 5083 alloy such that a budget of 250,000 will not be exceeded in terms of contribution requested as a grant where 70% funding may be available to SMEs. The Leads will cover all hire costs and additional rentals needed.

- 36 PV array and wind turbine will run to 27k

- Batteries and motors will be around 18k

- Hydraulic components around 5.4k

- Alloy hull around 56k

- Stressing 27k

- Management 40.5k

- Technicians 36

- Precision engineering 10k

- Skippers 4.5k

                                                Subtotal 224.400

- Contingency (11%)  24.684

                                                    Total 249,084


The leads will make a 30% contribution of 100k.


Generally in Europe, Research & Innovation funding at conceptual level may justify 100% funding.


The leads on this project are sufficiently keen to see it take off that they will contribute significant time and resources to offset some of the work packages, the aim being to reduce the actual cost to around 70% of the total. This is by way of an effort to accommodate external contributors. At the level of funding published herein readers will understand that the project is deliberately basic. It can though be upgraded should suitable follow on calls and interest be generated.

The leads might contribute: management, facilities, workshops and equipment hire costs over the duration of the project. Crowd funding could help to make up any difference, but may not be relied on.



We are likely to spend:


- 20 weeks designing and testing the mechanics of this system in house in dedicated workshops.


- 10 weeks would be allocated to debugging computer programs and running the machinery. In tandem, the hull of a small test vessel will be designed, tank tested and stressed. 


- 42 weeks would be constructing the small trimaran vessel, Fitting the test equipment to the hull, and conducting sea trials.


Total Project duration estimate: 75 weeks



WEEKS 1 - 16



1 - 16



WEEKS 17 - 32



17 -32



WEEKS 33 - 48



22 - 40



WEEKS 49 - 64



1 - 16



WEEKS 65 - 75





To make this timetable happen, the team will be using more than one subcontractor specialising in the fabrication of marine alloy structures (MIG & TIG) and the making of any bespoke engineering precision parts.


Where expressions of interest have in the past been received from academia, the team hope to collaborate with at least one UK university to assist with stressing and tank testing, though the Foundation has its own test tank for basic stability and wind turbine testing.


The Foundation has basic welding fabrication equipment for less demanding operations and use of a large trailer mounted welding generator for portable operations. 




INVENTION - A popular and fast way to get from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight was by the Hoverspeed service. Hoverspeed eventually moved from hovercraft into high speed ferries, presumably because the operating costs of such technological marvels was too high. In order to be able to schedule commercial services, the hover craft concept of Christopher Cockerell had to be perfected. The patent declared a secret by the Ministry of Supply, hence preventing disclosure, Cockerell had to wait until 1957 when he heard of a similar invention being developed that overcame military objections, after which he managed to secure funding to develop his invention. The first prototype crossed the English Channel in 1959.



Albert Einstein: Creativity is the measure of intelligence












Climate Change Challenger

Cleaner Ocean Foundation &

Bluebird Marine Systems Ltd

Solar Studios


United Kingdom




H2020 manual

UK H2020 contacts

Horizon Europe





GUINNESS BOOK OF RECORDS - MS Turanor PlanetSolar (Switzerland) navigated the world in a westward direction from Monaco in 1 year 7 months and 7 days from 27 September 2010 to 4 May 2012. We wonder why nobody has attempted to improve on this design, to challenge the record in the intervening seven years.







TRANSFERABLE TECHNOLOGY - The design of the Climate Change Challenger might be adapted to Cargo, Container, Cruise and Ferry designs, without needing to radically alter port facilities. The designs above are not representative of adaptations of the concept, but serve to illustrate the thinking of other design houses.




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