Solar Energy Aboard Amazon Cruises
Rainforest conservation is of the utmost importance to Rainforest Cruises, we are advocates for sustainable travel and have many years’ first-hand experience of life and ecotourism in Latin America. We admire those cruises who are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and aim to educate and promote rainforest conservation.
Some Amazon River cruises are pioneers of ecotourism and a perfect example of how implementing a solar-energy system can successfully operate a boat with minimum environmental impact. Their goal of reducing the use of fossil fuels has been applied vessel-wide to ship design, equipment and ship operations. With the use of two different systems: solar-electric and solar-thermal, they have been able to dramatically reduce exhaust emissions as well as fuel consumption of their Amazon cruise.
Solar-electric systems generate enough electricity to power their freezers, ice maker, water coolers, refrigerators, illumination and even the ship's launches. Due to a custom-built switching system and an extensive battery array, many other appliances are also powered by the sun, even at night!
Solar-Thermal Hot Water System
The constant availability of very hot water is not really essential in the Amazon, especially after a long day of exploring the hot Amazon rainforest. Heated water for showers can come from two separate systems the most sustainable being the solar-thermal system. Most water heaters are a very significant consumer of fossil fuel which in turn creates air pollution.
To reduce carbon emissions some riverboats were designed with two fully independent showering systems: one that is solar-thermal and another that is diesel-electric. Every cabin has two separate shower heads in the bathroom, one for each system. Throughout the day and night the warm water is distributed vessel-wide by gravity through its own dedicated insulated piping. Of course, if the day is rainy the water will not be as warm, but most travelers find the water temperature perfectly suitable for their needs. As with most sustainable systems, users have to be game to participate and accept some variation from their normal routines. Guests aboard Amazon cruises see themselves as participants and not just observers and become aware of their energy use and partnership in sustainability.
The secondary hot water shower system, though diesel-electric powered, also has a sustainability feature. The water is distributed under pressure via electric pumps through its own dedicated piping system to a collection of "on-demand" electric heaters in each cabin's bathroom. This is a considerable savings of energy because it eliminates the need to continuously and perpetually heat large tanks full of water. In an effort to calibrate our energy use with actual necessity, this system is engaged only during specific times of day. While this system does require an adjustment to typical routines, for most travelers it is a simple change in scheduling and the steps taken to reduce our carbon footprint are easy ones. These small changes in traveler personal habits have very large and positive consequences for sustainable tourism and the preservation of rainforests.
Solar Propulsion - Excursion Launches
Another innovation in the Amazon is that the ship's launches are configured to be powered with electric motors which are in turn powered by energy from our solar-electric panels. A combination of features of both ship and cruise design make this propulsion system possible. An electric motor is significantly much less quieter than a conventional outboard motor. This means you'll be able to maneuver closer to wildlife without scaring them away. This is a big plus for bird-watchers in particular, since birds are quick to fly away at the sound of a motor approaching.