Britain's first solar-powered ferry crosses Broads

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A solar-powered boat, named after the Egyptian sun god Ra, is to ferry visitors around one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions.

A solar-powered boat, named after the Egyptian sun god Ra, is to ferry visitors around one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions.

The 12-seater craft, which is believed to be Britain's firstpurpose-built solar-powered passenger boat, was launched at Ludham on the Norfolk Broads yesterday. Built in Germany, it cost £55,000 and will take passengers on tours of Barton Broad, starting next Easter.

Aitken Clark, chief executive of the Broads Authority, which manages the Norfolk waterway, said: "This is an exciting and innovative way of harnessing nature to enjoy the natural world. Environmentally friendly boating is at the heart of the Broads Authority's objectives and we hope that this solar-powered boat will be the beginning of a new way of thinking in boat propulsion.

"We felt it was a futuristic and fitting way of opening up Barton Broad to the public as part of our millennium project. It is the fulfilment of a dream."

The authority said its officials came up with the idea after talking to counterparts in Germany who oversee the management of Lake Constance. A boat similar to Ra is currently on show at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany, where the Broads Authority is taking part in an exhibition.

The 30ft-long craft, which has a top speed of 8mph, is powered by three strips of seven solar panels.

Each panel contains more than 30 cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. The boat operates on 48 volts and electrical power produced by the solar cells is stored in rechargeable batteries.

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