KOCHI: A policy is in the making to encourage the fishing boats in the country to tap the potential of solar energy. The objective is to convince fishermen to use solar panels for the boatsâ€™ auxiliary power requirements such as lighting, net handling, etc.
â€śPrototypes have been developed and are functional in the backwaters of Kerala. The extrapolation to fishing boats is a vision at present, and consultations are on with interested entities. Discussions have been held with maritime boards, International Solar Alliance and some ports,â€ť Malini V Shankar, director general of shipping and secretary to the Government of India, said.
She said studies need to be conducted on the relative cost of boats powered by solar power and other renewable fuels. â€śComparison will have to be done on life-cycle cost and not on mere capital and operational costs. The study is expected to reveal if any subsidy will be necessary for promoting solar-powered boats and if so, how would it compare with the existing subsidy,â€ť Malini said.
K K Lajid, assistant director of Fisheries, said fishing boats require 100 HP and above. â€śItâ€™s not a practical idea to have solar-powered fishing boats as they would require huge solar panels. Solar-powered boats are feasible only for inland fishing, which requires just 2-6 HP,â€ť he said.
The Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) has taken the lead in developing prototypes for seagoing boats, which can generate auxiliary power using solar energy.
M V Baiju, senior scientist, CIFT, who is in charge of the project, said the solar prototype developed by the institute includes a 3.63-m-long catamaran type (twin hull) FRP inland fishing craft and a sea-going class multi-purpose fishing vessel. â€śSolar power is suitable for only small boats, those which use less than 20 HP. Ideally, itâ€™s best used for auxiliary boats,â€ť he said.
CIFT has also just built one 8-m-long solar fishing boat for reservoir fishing-cum-aqua tourism, which will be launched by the Union Minister for Agriculture. Malini pointed out Kerala has already taken the initiative of converting traditional boat to solar power and is operating a passenger boat on the backwaters.
â€śStudents in an engineering college in Kashmir have developed a 12-seater passenger boat which is run by solar power for operations on the Dal lake. The state government can play a major role in promoting solar power,â€ť she said.