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The Power of the Sun, the Silence of the Seas

On 18 August, HKUST received a very special visitor, the world's largest solar-powered catamaran PlanetSolar, together with its owners and four crew members.

On its way around the world, Hong Kong was PlanetSolar's only stop in China. How fitting that it should call at HKUST, the only university with a seaside campus in Asia, and the university busy churning out major green initiatives in education and research. This is more than just a courtesy call, as the boat brought with it a message of protecting the environment and of clean living.

There was a buzz of excitement as the vessel sailed into view at Clear Water Bay, with hundreds lining the waterfront to wave their welcome. In the welcoming party were two of our Vice Presidents, Prof YS Wong and Dr Eden Woon, as well as faculty, our students plus over 100 primary and secondary students invited for the occasion. The specially designed boat, measuring 31 meters long and 7.5 meters high has a stunning profile that is evocative of a space-ship. Despite its modest size, it came with 500 square meters of highly energy-efficient solar cells.

After lunch, the captain and his crew shared the sense of adventure of circumnavigating the world on this purpose-built boat. Tellingly, when asked what was special about sailing on this solar-powered vessel, the captain replied "it is the silence on the seas, without a noisy, polluting engine." There is indeed poetry in energy-efficiency.