Sailing into Renewable Energy

Written By: Laurel Kruke, Sustainability Manager

Happy April! In this week’s Fusebox blog, I’d like to share a renewable energy project I found out about in the fall, which started in Washington D.C., will end up (at least for the first part of their journey) in Cuba, and is making headway when it comes to opening up a discussion about renewable energy in our everyday lives.

The Vittoria Energy Expedition is a renewable energy-powered sailboat, which the crew plans to sail to Cuba (and eventually other destinations around the world) to talk about how communities use renewable energy, such as solar and wind, to power their homes, businesses, and lives. The 31-foot sailboat will harness the power of the wind, as sailboats have been doing for ages, and will use electricity from solar panels to power the electric motor (which replaced the standard diesel engine), equipment, lighting, and other electricity needs. Take a look at this interview to hear one of the founders of the Vittoria and the vice commodore of the Capital Yacht Club (where Vittoria was docked in Washington D.C.) talk about how the team used common equipment that you can find at stores like Home Depot to build their solar power system, and how renewable energy can influence the boating community. As they’ve noted on their website, and in many of their interviews, the guys who started this endeavor are not all engineers. Their backgrounds are in business, public and international policy, and natural resources, but they all are interested in renewable energy and are ready for an adventure.

Why Cuba, you might ask? Cuba has a goal of increasing its renewable energy production and use to 24% by 2030, and is currently at 4%. Cuba relies on Venezuela for much of its crude oil supply, but those supplies are finite and decreasing. With economic issues arising all over the world, Venezuela included, it will be beneficial for Cuba to become more energy-independent. Cuba is a beautiful island, with lots of natural energy resources from the sun, wind, and biofuel, so being able to produce their own power on the island rather than import from elsewhere will allow Cuba also to have a steadier supply. As tourism grows, consistent abundant power will be a necessity. Granma Province, a mountainous region on the east-coast of the island, has already found many ways to power their homes, businesses, and schools using renewable energy; they rely on solar, water, wind, and biomass opportunities to produce electricity and fuel. There is also an environmental education center in Granma Province where students are taught about energy and encouraged to come up with solutions to energy challenges.

The Vittoria team began their journey down the east coast this fall and winter, and the plan is to continue on to Cuba later this year. Along the way, they’ve met with folks to talk about renewable energy, and learned about how different Americans are working with renewable energy to power their lives. Their team is working on videos to share with the public about their journey, so stay tuned! This is a great example about how a great idea can turn into reality with a little research, interest, ambition, and hard-work. I hope this inspires everyone to think big!