Spirit Yachts: Solar Sails and Clean Energy in Yachting

Transition to clean energy: Spirit Yachts and solar sails

Spirit Yachts is actively pursuing clean energy and the adoption of solar sails on its yachts. Complete conversion to electric drive and the use of flexible solar panels on the sails are becoming increasingly popular solutions, ensuring the yachts are environmentally sustainable and efficient.

Aveento on the water - Aveento has Oceanvolt sail drive system, flexible solar panels on the deck and in the sails
Aveento on the water – Aveento has Oceanvolt sail drive system, flexible solar panels on the deck and in the sails

Last year, Sean McMillan, founder of Spirit Yachts, announced that more than half of the yachts ordered from the company are repeat orders from existing owners, but every one of them is switching from diesel to electric drive. That obviously got him excited. It’s no secret that Spirit has been actively promoting clean energy ideas since winning the inaugural Green Award from British Marine at SIBS 2019. In a recent BBC documentary (Making Waves: Building Boats), Macmillan wasted no time in voicing his displeasure with the state of boat manufacturing in the UK.

Not facing the environmental concerns associated with fiberglass composite (GRP), all Spirit yachts are made from sustainably sourced wood (mainly Canadian Douglas fir and sapele). The company focuses on regenerating clean energy used to power home loads (interior lighting, etc.) and electric propulsion.

Flexibility and innovation: Spirit Yachts features

Spirit Yachts, as a custom boat builder, prides itself on its flexibility in the yacht-building process. The lack of shape limitations and the ability to innovate allow for the creation of unique electric yachts of different sizes to meet the needs of each client.

Electric-powered yachts with solar sails

In April 2021, Karen Underwood was appointed CEO of Spirit and tasked with providing even greener and more efficient drive systems for the luxury yachts so beloved by the directors of the James Bond films. She has clearly defined plans for the future. “Basically, we would like every sailing yacht coming out of our yard to have an electric drive system,” says Underwood.

This is borne out by an impressive legacy of commitment to innovation and customer interest in sustainable yachts. Underwood describes Avvento in detail; its owner lives off the grid in Canada on his 44CR (cruiser-racer), an electrically powered yacht built at Ipswich Shipyard in 2020. In addition to the installed Oceanvolt sail drive system, which generates power (via the propeller) while sailing, as well as solar panels on deck and a small wind turbine, to give the yacht autonomy, Avvento has flexible solar panels attached to the mainsail to maximize solar energy.

Spirit Yachts flexible solar panels built into the deck
Spirit Yachts flexible solar panels built into the deck

“The panels are either sewn or glued to the sail,” Underwood says. By the time Spirit was offering (and actively using) this technology, solar sails were virtually unknown.

“Solar technology has definitely advanced, and now we can mold the shape of solar panels to capture sunlight and convert it into energy at certain times of the day.”

Karen Underwood, CEO of Spirit Yachts, said
Spirit Yachts flexible solar panels on sails
Spirit Yachts flexible solar panels on sails

Regeneration and the search for the future: energy supply for yachts

Spirit Yachts actively collaborates with suppliers of regeneration and electric drive technology to explore new systems to optimize yacht engines. The company’s openness to new solutions and constant search for improvements keeps it at the forefront of technological innovation in the world of yacht building.

All images courtesy of Spirit Yachts/Richard Langdon

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