Solar-powered houseboat prototype hits the Thames

Sanitov Studios is a design think tank charged with developing sustainable urban designs. The think tank’s latest project was inspired by an ambition to not only develop one of the most sustainable homes in London, but also one of the most affordable.

With demand for properties currently outstripping new builds, the design studio identified that escalating house prices and the increasingly crowded property market needed a solution.

To solve the problem, Sanitov took to the water. In the current market, the average price for a three bedroom house is £226,887. The average houseboat costs between £60,000-£100,000. Sanitov believes that by building sustainable houseboats, cities can begin to reclaim waterways as an integral part of an urban lifestyle.

The off-grid nature of a houseboat necessitates a simpler lifestyle whereby consumption of energy becomes a considered choice. Having a finite amount of energy will help the houseboat dweller come to terms with their energy usage and develop sustainable habits. As a result, Sanitov decided to develop ‘The Ark’ – a sustainable houseboat built to exacting environmental standards that will stand (or float) as a perfect example of the potential of houseboats in urban developments.  

For a while now, the houseboat community has relied on solar photovoltaic technology to deliver portable, wire-free electricity. In partnership with renewable energy installer, Enviko, The Ark underwent a full technical survey to determine the best way to sustainably build and power the houseboat. Enviko decided to fit the houseboat’s upper deck out with a 2kWp solar array.

The renewable energy company estimates that the solar array will produce around 1,716kWh a year – offsetting a tonne of CO2 in the process. Typically, the average household uses 3,300kWh of electricity a year but Sanitov hopes that the houseboat will only consume around 1,000kWh annually.

Designing a solar system for a houseboat presents a host of unique problems; ordinarily a solar array is designed to face due south at an optimum angle to generate peak electricity. However, as a houseboat moves the modules used have to be more flexible. It’s for this reason that Enviko recommended Panasonic’s HIT range of modules which incorporates a mono thin crystalline silicon wafer surrounded by ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers – effectively boosting the solar module’s low-light performance.       

After construction, the prototype houseboat’s first task was to house a select few members of the Danish Olympic team during the London games.

Along with other projects such as the solar installation at Blackfriars Bridge and the BIPV installation at King’s Cross, London, is fast becoming known for its ambitious solar applications.

Sanitov hopes that its Ark prototype will be the first of a large rollout of flexible, sustainable houseboats across urban waterways in the UK. Below is a video outlining the design think tank’s inspiration for the solar-powered Ark houseboat:

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