Solar Sal on the Erie Canal

Solar Sal to carry recycled cardboard down the Erie Canal, using the sun's energy: not gasoline… or a mule!

In an age of nanotechnology and an upstate manufacturing resurgence, the 40 foot Solar Sal will demonstrate the continued usefulness of one of New York State’s most enduring industrial thoroughfares, the Erie Canal. 

Director of Canals Brian Stratton“For nearly 200 years, the canal has served to facilitate the Industrial Revolution,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director of Canals Brian Stratton. “Part of the reason for our upcoming observance of the bicentennial is to pave the way for at least another 100 years of Canal operation. New York has always been an innovator and a leader, and I think that it’s true of the Canal too.”

While maritime transport using solar-electric propulsion remains in its infancy and will take some time to become a cost-effective cargo delivery method, the Cascades Paper company is sponsoring this test voyage. Solar energy is no stranger to Cascades, which inaugurated a solar park unique in its industry last October to meet part of the energy needs of its industrial complex in Kingsey Falls (Quebec, Canada). This was a project long cherished by one of the Company's founders. 

Léon Marineau, Vice-President, Environment for Cascades

"Our Company has always believed it was right to invest in projects that have positive environmental impacts. We strongly encourage initiatives like [Solar Sal], which can lead us to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Léon Marineau, Vice-President, Environment for Cascades

Unique Design for the 21st Century

When the sun is shining, Solar Sal’s powerful 5kW solar arrays can generate more power than its two Torqueedo electric motors can use, and thanks to the engineering prowess of Professor-emeritus David Borton of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the vessel actually runs at the same 5 nautical knots as large tugboats, but using only half power. Given that the on board batteries can hold enough charge for an additional 50 mile run after dark, Solar Sal theoretically has no limits for canal usage other than the need for the crew to get a good night’s rest. This is clearly a breakthrough moment for alternative energy water transportation. Additional test data about the boat’s capabilities will be collected during the voyage.

Awarded “Best in Show” at the recent 2015 Tugboat Roundup, Solar Sal is the larger of two available prototypes designed by Professor Borton for various uses including cargo delivery, food delivery, tourist transportation, private yachts, and fishing boats. “Solar Sal returns the sun's power to marine transportation in commercial and recreational ways,” said Professor Borton as he noted the connection between the sun’s energy and every other form of power historically used on Earth: “Hay is solar energy for the mules and horses that pulled barges on the Erie Canal and Solar Sal is also 100% powered by the sun, (as, by the way, are people).”

The addition of HullSpeed® Performance Marine Coatings helps magnify Solar Sal’s benefits and overwhelming potential. This historic commercial voyage ties in the history of the areas’ waterways as well as its technological and manufacturing advancements,” said Duane Palmateer, President of Greenfield Manufacturing, Inc., maker of Hullspeed® Performance Marine Coatings.  “HullSpeed® 3000-Series was applied to the bottom of Solar Sal to help improve its range and efficiency while under battery power. HullSpeed® Coatings are designed to improve vessel performance and help deter the adhesion of invasive species while remaining eco-friendly and durable. It’s great to see this boat come to life as it is truly at the forefront of an industry and, being backed by one of the largest maritime member chambers in the state gives it the best chance for success.”

Southern Saratoga County Leadership Circle member Curtis Lumber was the vendor chosen for most of the marine grade woods used in the construction of Solar Sal, while Greenfield Manufacturing of Saratoga Springs provided the Hullspeed® coating used on the boat’s bottom. Other sponsors/suppliers included Sunpower, Torqueedo, and the Home Depot.

About the Southern Saratoga County Chamber

Sponsored by The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County, Cascades and Hullspeed® Performance Marine Coatings, the vessel will complete its mission along DeWitt Clinton’s original “ditch”, which opened in 1825. The Chamber, the largest such organization in the state with regard to the Marine industry and 3rd largest overall in the Capital Region, is a major facilitator of Solar Sal’s history making cargo delivery voyage along with the New York State Canal Corporation. 

President/CEO Pete Bardunias

“We have been working with alternative energy marine transportation ever since the sailing vessel Ceres made its trips through Mechanicville in 2013 and ’14,” says President/CEO Pete Bardunias.  “The maritime community is a very significant part of our organization, and we are pleased to work with historic commercial vessels such as the Onrust and Pennsylvania Railroad Barge #399, conventional cargo transport interests such as the New York State Marine Highway (owner Rob Goldman is also an RPI alumnus) and now the latest, Solar Sal.  This development may well be the most significant transportation breakthrough since DeWitt Clinton first envisioned the marine superhighway that still exists 200 years later.”

About Cascades

Cascades  was founded in 1964 in Quebec, Canada by the Lemaire brothers, pioneers in recovery and in manufacturing eco-responsible tissue products and packaging. Cascades operates approximately 90 units in North America and Europe, including eight units in New York State. Their force applied its efforts so that the solar-powered vessel will sail with real cargo on board: a heavy load of recycled cardboard bales.