Energy Observer – the first hydrogen vessel around the world. That in itself is a mighty statement. An Odyssey for the Future? That’s just showboating.
But actually, it isn’t. Once you see it in person and understand the magnitude of its mission, as we have had the pleasure to do here today, it becomes clear that this once legendary racing boat – and its inspiring crew – really is an ambassador for the hydrogen revolution.
Docked in St. Katharine docks in London, the 47th iconic stopover of its world tour and the last of its Northern European leg, the Energy Observer vessel has already clocked up more than 15,000 nautical miles and all without carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, fine particles or noise pollution.
The vessel’s mission is to test the cutting-edge, renewable energy-based technologies that it is comprised of and essentially act as a floating laboratory of energy transition on the high seas. To see it is most definitely to believe it: stepping aboard the boat is an exploration of both the state-of-the-art and a new wave of sustainable thinking. For anyone that has followed its voyage since 2017, it’s a real privilege.
As it floats here with the renowned Tower Bridge as the backdrop, the Energy Observer brings its resounding message here to the UK and the home of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) headquarters.
That message? That our resources are not unlimited, that we must cooperate with nature intelligently as Energy Observer does with its boat, and ultimately that there is an alternative way forward in mobility – a sustainable means of mobility.
And seldom has there been such a striking example of tomorrow’s hydrogen mobility in action.
A proving ground, on the high seas
A reconditioned former legendary racing boat, Energy Observer is now a veritable experimental platform for future energies. With a combination of three sources of renewable energies (sun, wind, hydro-kinetic) and two forms of storage (batteries and hydrogen), it is a symbol of an energetic revolution already moving ahead, adapted to all territories and all latitudes.
By including onboard two means of storage, batteries and hydrogen, Energy Observer is proving the advantages of hydrogen in both terrestrial and maritime mobility: for equal weight, hydrogen storage contains 7.3 times more energy than battery storage.
It is also a high-profile demonstration of the performance of hydrogen to decision-makers, companies and society as a whole; Energy Observer is the first vessel in the world that is capable of producing its hydrogen onboard, using sea water, by electrolysis. It’s crew and sponsors hope this will ultimately to promote hydrogen’s large-scale deployment in the decades to come.
Energy Observer is a proving ground for an innovative wind propulsion technology too. During its first navigation seasons, Energy Observer experimented with two vertical-axis wind turbines for production, and a traction wing to reduce energy consumption. In 2019, the vessel has been testing a completely new system combining the advantages of the former system with a new one: a wind propeller.
“By the time the Energy Observer adventure comes to an end in 2022, it will have taken in 50 countries and 101 stopovers over a mammoth six-year journey, and well and truly put hydrogen power, clean mobility and sustainability on a global stage”
The Oceanwings wings® reduce the vessel’s energy consumption, accelerate its speed, and above all, enable it to produce energy and hydrogen while navigating. During its navigation from St. Petersburg, the crew and engineers worked hard on the Oceanwings® wind propulsion wings, H2 View understands. These wings, the largest to be tested to date and for the first time on a vessel of this size, are the fruit of a concept patented by VPLP Design and co-developed in partnership with CNIM, where they are assembled. Aboard Energy Observer, they have been optimised thanks to the feedback from sailing in complex weather conditions comprised of strong headwinds, squalls, adverse seas, and very little sun.
The vessel’s mission is to test all of these cutting-edge technologies in extreme conditions, to allow for the concrete feedback of experience on this intelligent energy system. That’s why, after each sailing campaign, the vessel returns to its base in Saint-Malo, France to optimise and upgrade its high-tech systems.
With the conclusion of this campaign across Northern Europe, Energy Observer will leave London on 13th October and return once more to Saint-Malo to prepare for its next epic campaign – across North-East Asia in 2020.
By the time the Energy Observer adventure comes to an end in Central America and the American East Coasts in 2022, it will have taken in 50 countries and 101 stopovers over a mammoth six-year journey, and well and truly put hydrogen power, clean mobility and sustainability on a global stage. Now that really is a statement and an odyssey for the future.