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Solar-powered 102-foot boat debuts

What is being touted as the world's largest solar boat was unveiled recently at a shipyard in Kiel, Germany.

Called 'PlanetSolar,' the 102-foot catamaran is powered exclusively by high-efficiency solar cells manufactured by SunPower Corp. The craft will begin its testing this month, about a year in advance of a planned round-the-world journey in April 2011.

Constructed in 13 months, the boat is powered by about 38,000 deck-mounted solar cells, each with a 22 percent solar conversion efficiency. The cells cover about 5,382 square feet of the boat's surface.

The boat, designed by a team of international engineers working under the direction of PlanetSolar SA of Switzerland, is expected to be the fastest solar boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the first to navigate both the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Planned stopovers on the east-to-west voyage include Hamburg, Germany; London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. The solar boat will be available for public display during each of its stops.

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