July 8, 2024

Boat With Solar Panels to Sail on River Derwent

A new pontoon on the River Derwent will allow a solar-powered boat, promoting Derby Canal restoration, to fully charge its batteries from sunlight, enabling it to run entirely on solar energy.

Operating on Solar Energy Only

To support a solar-powered boat dedicated to promoting Derby Canal restoration, a pontoon will be constructed on the River Derwent. The boat previously struggled to fully charge its batteries because it was moored under a bridge. With this new installation, the boat will be able to operate solely on solar energy.

Since 2022, the solar-powered boat has been providing trips along the River Derwent in Derby to promote the Derby Canal restoration project. However, it couldn't fully charge its batteries due to being moored under a bridge. With a new pontoon set to be installed on the river, the boat will be able to run entirely on solar energy.

The Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust, which operates the boat, mentioned that the pontoon will not only make the trips more eco-friendly but also allow wheelchair users to board.

Trust chairman Chris Madge emphasized Derby's status as a centre of engineering excellence, noting that many trust members are natural engineers. He stressed the importance of making the project environmentally friendly.

Solar Panels on Boat Roof

Trust vice-chairman Mike Wingfield, who also works at Rolls-Royce in Derby and seeks out new technologies, played a key role in designing the boat. The boat operates on electric propulsion like an electric car, but its batteries can be charged either by plugging into an electricity supply or using the solar panels on its roof. There is currently a charging point at its mooring under the bridge.

When the boat was launched in 2022, Phoenix Green was selected as the best mooring spot, but the shaded location prevented the boat from being charged by sunlight. The new pontoon, essentially a large floating platform, will be placed near the bridge in a more visible, sunlit area.

Mr. Wingfield expressed that the pontoon's visibility would mark the beginning of integrating boats into the city center and developing a waterfront in Derby. He addressed the criticism that Derby has neglected its river, viewing this project as a solution. The goal is for the River Derwent to eventually connect with the restored Derby Canal.

The trust obtained planning permission for the pontoon over a year ago but is currently awaiting final approval from Derby City Council. "We're waiting for all the pieces to align: council permissions and final approval of the design," Mr. Madge explained. "Once that's done, we can proceed with construction.”

Restoring the Derby Canal

Completed in 1796, the Derby Canal stretched 14 miles (23 km) from the Trent and Mersey Canal at Swarkestone to the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre. Initially, it was primarily used for transporting coal, but its use declined with the advent of the railways. Commercial traffic stopped in the 1940s, and the canal was completely closed in 1964. "Over time, it was filled in for safety and converted into paths," explained Mr. Madge.

The Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust aims to reverse the closure of the canal by restoring it as closely as possible to its original path. Mr Madge emphasized the broad benefits to the community: "It offers activities such as paddle-boarding, boating, and fishing, benefiting everyone. It fosters regeneration and supports businesses along the canal, providing a relaxing environment on the water."

Due to urban development over the years, the original route through Derby city centre is no longer feasible. Instead, a new route will be established, including a section that crosses part of the River Derwent. Additionally, boats will be able to navigate along a portion of the River Derwent.

The introduction of a new pontoon on the River Derwent marks a significant step towards sustainability for the solar-powered boat promoting Derby Canal restoration. With the ability to now fully charge from sunlight, the boat exemplifies the potential of solar energy in enhancing eco-friendly initiatives along waterways.

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