'Solar Sal' to Take First Eco-Friendly Delivery Trip on Erie Canal

LOCKPORT, N.Y. -- A special boat has embarked on its first cargo delivery trip on the Erie Canal, using no gas or oil. It left Lockport Tuesday to head east. 

Much of Tuesday morning along the Erie Canal in Lockport was spent loading cargo into a special boat.

"It's been a long time since a vessel of this size has been put on the Canal and loaded, so we needed to find a convenient dock. This old terminal was once used for loading barges, it was the perfect place," said Southern Saratoga county chamber president Pete Bardunias.

At first glance, it may look like a typical boat. But if you look closer, you'll see 16 solar panels on top of Solar Sal. They're capable of generating up to five kilowatts of power on a sunny day.

"It's like magic, there's a silicon crystal in the solar panel that changes light into electricity and that electricity powers the boat," said Solar Sal project director David Borton.

The solar-powered boat was built from scratch outside of Albany last fall. Since May, it has traveled around the state as a display. Now, for the first time, it's embarking on a journey to transport cargo. The 40-foot boat is able to hold up to 24,000 thousand or 12 tons of cargo.

"The whole thing shows that solar transportation is practical in boats. And there will be no fuel bill, no smell, no noise, it's just all solar electric even on a day like today," said Borton.

The solar powered vessel is delivering bales of cardboard from Lockport to a paper mill in Mechanicville. It's the first 100 percent green delivery trip on the Erie Canal.

"There has never been a cargo delivery from one place to another on the Canal that uses strictly solar energy or any kind of alternative energy for it's fuel. Everything since the beginning of the canal used a mule or some sort of engine," said Bardunias.

Solar Sal was named after the old tune, "Low Bridge." The vessel will travel over 300 miles to it's next stop, leaving no carbon foot print behind on the way.

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