Spotlight on Ohlone:
Solar-powered boat makes big waves

By Zunera Syed, Staff writer.

Thursday, April 9, 2009—Reprinted from Monitor.

Man posing next to houseboat on a trailer. Professor of Computer Science Jon Degallier stands next to his solar-powered houseboat. —Photo courtesy of Jon Degallier.

Solar-powered boat owner, Computer Science Professor Jon Degallier, is one of the forward-looking people participating in energy efficient projects.

Degallier likes fixing boats as well as building concrete steps, dams, fishponds etc.

“I have a couple [of] places in the wilderness where I can never run out of projects. I am also crazy about alternate energies.”

Degallier bought the 15-to-20-year-old boat two years ago, which had an engine that wouldn’t work.

Converting this ordinary boat into a solar-powered one, took Degallier one month, and not much money out of his pocket.

The motor cost $1,200. The batteries cost $400. The solar panel cost $900. Cables and other accessories cost $400.

“[It’s] very cheap considering all of the fuel is now free.”

Degallier’s boat, named Lake Shrimp, goes from five to seven miles per hour. “It’s like a turtle. It’s slow but it gets there,” he said.

The boat got its name because “it is small and does not look like much; so the shrimp part of the name is for the ridicule… it actually is quite a jewel on the inside.”

Degallier said his boat is “super relaxing” because it moves slowly through the water, making it easier to drive.

He keeps his boat on the water during summer and brings it home during the colder season.

“This will only be my second season so I’m still experimenting.”

The boat runs on a mid-sized 24-volt electric motor. “The motor pulls and also turns the boat at various speeds, as controlled by a little remote device, just like for a DVD player,” Degallier said.

Two batteries are connected to the motor.

The batteries are charged by a 24-volt solar panel and the solar panel is mounted on the roof.

Degallier said Mark Twain’s books about life on the Mississippi River influenced him to build his own kayak when he was younger and paddle down the Mississippi from Minnesota to New Orleans. He has been interested in boats ever since.

Degallier initially purchased the houseboat because he couldn’t build on the property he owns at Clear Lake, which is very steep and rocky.

“It is basically a 45-degree cliff, with a road on top and a beach at the bottom; a perfect rock path project for retirement!” Now, when Degallier goes to Clear Lake, he stays on his boat.

Solar power is nothing new, though some might think it is. French inventor Auguste Mouchout was one of the first to convert solar power into mechanical power in the 1860s.

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