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Royal Caribbean Goes Solar

It’s probably not surprising, given that the cruise ship company was the first in history to equip two of its Celebrity Solstice-class ships with solar panels in 2009, but the addition of 21,000 square feet of solar thin-film panels to the Oasis of the Seas – the world’s largest cruise ship at 225,282 tons and 5,408 passengers – marks a sustainability high point for Royal Caribbean.

Passengers can’t see the solar photovoltaic installation, which is on top of deck 19 (the ship’s uppermost deck), but the panels provide enough solar energy to light the ship’s Royal Promenade and Central Park areas, according to Royal Caribbean environmental chief Jamie Sweeting.

The thin-film array was installed by Jacksonville, Florida-based design-build solar firm BAM Solar Power, whose success to date – and anticipated $15-million in sales for 2010 – is partly attributable to being a certified distributor for both BP Solar (a division of BP, a global energy services and renewable energy firm) and Georgia-based GE Energy, a global power generation and energy delivery technologies company.

The rest is clearly skill, as why else would a huge company like Royal Caribbean, founded in 1968 with a single ship and now operating 22, trust its valuable vessels to what is still a relatively young company?
Privately held BAM, which also partners with Webel Solar, Allied Roofing and Solar Energy, Inc., was founded in 2007 by Andrew Rasken and has since seen its star rise among solar energy firms, as witness the 550-panel, $750,000 installation on Oasis.

In addition to solar panels, Royal Caribbean displays its sustainability scorecard through implementation of energy-efficient lighting and air-conditioning systems that turn on and off automatically when not needed aboard many of its ships. Eight of the company’s vessels also employ smokeless gas-turbine engines – the first in the industry – that reduce nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 85 percent and 90 percent, respectively.

The cruise ship company does not expect rapid return on its solar investments, but instead regards them as what Rasken describes as “future proofing”; that is, employing technology in its early, imperfect, stages to insure that it reaches the future with most of the bugs worked out – a progression called Moore’s Law which Rasken sees as the impetus behind the computer chip and increasing miniaturized electronic media.

Eventually, according to Sweeting, a similar solar installation – by BAM – will take place on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the sister ship to the mega-class Oasis. In fact, in the future, Sweeting sees all ships in both the Oasis class and the Sovereign class sporting solar panels, in an effort to further Royal Caribbean’s stated goal of protecting the marine environment to insure that the oceans remain viable and beautiful for both their inhabitants and their visitors.



Category/ies:Regional News.
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