KOCHI: The Kerala State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has decided to induct more solar-powered ferries and passenger boats into its fleet.Transport Minister A K Saseendran said the government was planning to operate at least one solar powered boat each in every district.
After attending the trial run of solar-powered ferry Aditya, constructed by Kochi-based Navalt for the SWTD, at the Bristal Yard at Aroor here on Friday, Saseendran said the government would seek more Central funds for operating solar-powered boats in Kerala.
“The future of the SWTD lies in operating boats powered by green energy, which are non-polluting and cost-effective. We are planning to operate at least one solar-powered ferry/boat each in every district, for which financial support of the Central Government is required. We have written to the Central Government in this regard,” said Saseendran. SWTD managing director Shaji Nair said the government had sanctioned Rs 22 crore for constructing 14 catamarans. “We are exploring the prospects of using the fund for building solar-powered boats also. Solar powered boats are less expensive than ordinary boats, as the fuel efficiency reduces operating cost. Initially, the Central Government had offered to bear 30 percent of the construction cost of Aditya. But, after assessing efficiency of the boat, the Centre has decided to increase funding to 40 percent,” he said. Aditya is claimed to be the first solar-powered ferry in South Asia. The 75-seater ferry successfully cleared the initial trial run under the supervision of a technical committee, IRS and the Kerala Ports Surveyor.After completing the trial run in the Kochi backwaters, Aditya will be shifted to Vaikom. It will be deployed for transporting passengers between Vaikom and Thavanakkadavu next month.
Navalt is a joint venture of two French companies and a Kochi-based company. The 20-metre-long and seven-metre-wide Aditya, which was constructed at a cost of Rs 2 crore, is capable of cruising at a maximum speed of 7.5 knots. It makes less noise and vibration, compared to normal diesel ferries. The ferry is powered by 71-140 m2 solar panels installed on its roof, capable of producing 20 KW of electricity, which is stored in 700-kg/50-KW lithium-ion battery. There is also an option to charge the battery from the grid, and it takes nearly eight hours to fully charge. While the operation cost of diesel-powered ferries - fuel and maintenance - is around Rs 3 crore per year, the cost of solar-powered ferries is as low as Rs 1.40 lakh. The construction costs of diesel boat and solar boat are Rs 1.5 crore and Rs 2 crore, respectively.
Navalt is currently providing training to 20 SWTD officials to operate the boat. The company will also be responsible for maintaining the boat for five years. The boat is equipped with two LED screens to display information such as cruising speed, engine status and battery power.