The concept of solar ships is nothing new, but it appears that Australia's Solarsailor may be on the brink of bringing the technology to the mainstream. Hornblower Yachts in San Francisco is in the midst of negotiations with the Coast Guard to install a Solarsailor sail on one of their commercial ferryboats. If all goes well, the boat will be operational in 2009. Solarsailor has also won contracts in Shanghai and Hong Kong for similar vessels.
In its current form, solar sails are an ideal solution for boats designed for short trips. Tests in Sydney have illustrated that ships equipped with the sail can go around 6 knots on wind power alone or 6 knots on solar power. When combined, speeds of 10 knots are achievable. [Crave]