There have been several recent headlines in the popular media concerning advances in batteries, solar power, fuel cells and other similar technologies. Much of this interest and research is geared toward the automobile industry. Since I drive a Prius (and am WELL pleased), I am a supporter and follower of the electric and hybrid car world. Electric propulsion seems to be "just about there" to me, also.
What does this have to do with boats and boating? Well, more and more cruisers are using these technologies in one manner or another. The liveaboard and long-range cruising world are actually some of the leaders in solar and wind generation at the individual level, from what I see. This isn’t necessarily use as motive power, but use for house loads (lights, A/C, refrigerator, computers, radios, etc.). The more this technology grows and advances, the more the "trickle down" will enable us boaters to have more efficient cells.
There were headlines in the last day pointing toward possible (claimed, anyhow) advances in ultra-capacitors to take the place of batteries. Check this article from MIT’s Technology Review… interesting reading. Obviously this falls into the "nearly too good to be true" and "believe it when I see it" categories, but just the fact that its hitting the mainstream press and that money is being spent on research is interesting and encouraging to me.
Another article was discussing advances in solar power – "Cheap, Superefficient Solar".
Keep an eye on these trends… by the time I have a boat ready, the technology may be there 🙂