International Rescue Group installed two of OutBack Power's FLEXmax 80 charge controllers on board the Thunderbird 2. In combination with a 1.5 kilowatt array of BenQ solar panels and large bank of L16 batteries, OutBack's charge controllers make International Rescue Group's flagship boat a model for the rest of the fleet.

Using Alternative Energy for International Rescue Operations

Ray Thackeray | International Rescue Group

Can you please describe International Rescue Group?

International Rescue Group is a non-profit organization that provides first-line support and humanitarian aid to disaster-hit coastal communities in developing nations. After a tsunami, hurricane or other catastrophic event, International Rescue Group’s volunteers enter the area on boats carrying medical help, supplies, fresh water and food.

What was the initial challenge that led you to considering alternative energy for your boats?

As part of its mission, this all-volunteer organization is dedicated to keeping its environmental footprint as small and green as possible. International Rescue Group boats run on donated diesel electric hybrid drive engines that minimize the amount of diesel fuel the group burns on its trips. The Thunderbird 2 – a large, recycled, steel trawler – also has a sailing rig, so it can enter disaster areas without burning fuel. However, International Rescue Group wanted the option to harness solar energy to power the boat and its onboard water makers, communications, navigation and other equipment.

Can you describe what is involved in your alternative energy solution?

International Rescue Group installed two of OutBack Power’s FLEXmax 80 charge controllers on board the Thunderbird 2. In combination with a 1.5 kilowatt array of BenQ solar panels and large bank of L16 batteries, OutBack’s charge controllers make International Rescue Group’s flagship boat a model for the rest of the fleet.

Why did you choose solar power over other methods?

The Thunderbird 2 ship has multiple alternate energy generation systems including wind, towing water generators in addition to the primary propulsion via sail. But the donation of six 300-watt panels from BenQ made solar possible for us, too.

What is the objective of the project and what results have you seen?



  • Decrease environmental impact by switching the boat’s power source to solar energy from diesel.
  • Cut costs by eliminating the 30 gallons of diesel required each day by the boat’s generator.
  • Use donated solar panels to channel solar-generated power into the ship’s batteries.
  • Monitor system efficiency to evaluate the organization’s performance against its goals.


  • Annual fuel savings of $40,000
  • Cleaner, greener and quieter sailing for the boat’s crew, the survivors it serves, and the regions through which it travels
  • On-screen display of amp hours generated per day and overall efficiency measurements
  • Ability to tout green, lean operations for fundraising purposes

Are there other applications where you are considering alternative energy solutions in the future?

IRG plans to place a total of 100 vessels in service in the next 10 years, we plan on solar charging for all of them.

Have you seen the acceptance of alternative energy solutions grow in areas where they have been implemented during a disaster scenario?

In general, yes. No specifics at this time, but agencies in developing countries frequently have solar and wind power in remote locations.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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