Technology artist rendering of the greenheart project solar and sail powered ship

Published on September 21st, 2012 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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Can Solar-Powered Sailing Ships Open Up Ocean-Based Commerce?

artist rendering of the greenheart project solar and sail powered ship

Just over a week ago, we took a look at a handful of companies using (or thinking about using) sail-powered ships to transport raw materials and/or products. While sails can help these small companies in the developed world lower their carbon footprint, in the developing world, simpler forms of shipping could open up whole worlds of economic opportunity… and with marginal environmental impact, if done right. The creators of the Greenheart Project are trying to accomplish those latter goals with the development of a simply-designed, sail and solar-powered ship created specifically for use by some of the world’s poorest people.

Sounds kind of like toy for rich folks, right? That could’ve been the case, but the designers spent several years researching their concept to ensure it really served poor communities by making it affordable to build and operate. Obviously, solar and sail power requires no fuel, so that’s a good start. The Greenheart is designed to incorporate readily-available materials, so that’s another point in its favor. One of the coolest aspects: it can “dock” on beaches, so communities without ports can still use it to buy and sell in the larger global market.

Want to see this innovative concept? Check out Greenheart’s pitch video at Indiegogo:

Yes, they’re raising funds – the design is complete (and openly available), so now they want to build one and sail it around the world to demonstrate the viability of the technology. They’re looking to raise $120,000 in the next 41 days.

I’m impressed with the level of thought that’s gone into this project: the folks at Greenheart have considered environmental and economic impacts, and created a design that takes both fully into account. Still, I’m not a ship-builder – if you know more about the topic, and have thoughts on the design – or any other element of the project – share your thoughts with us.

Image credit: Screen capture from “Sail Away with Us for a Better World” video



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



4 Responses to Can Solar-Powered Sailing Ships Open Up Ocean-Based Commerce?

  1. Thank you for the thoughtful write up! Now we just need to get a boat in the water to show that we can begin to change the face of the shipping industry!

  2. Myles Peters says:

    At some point in the near future, I want to travel to India but I cringe at the thought of flying anywhere because of environmental reasons. This could be a form of luxury travel for those that feel strongly against any form of travel that impacts the environment but want to travel abroad. Great job Greenheart.

    • Dear Myles! You are absolutely right! Our designs are open source so they can be modified to become luxury travel. Also, we are offering as a perk for donating to our campaign, opportunities to travel on the ships. Why don’t you check it out?

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