12 September 2016

First green-powered boat prepares for global voyage

A new vessel, powered solely by renewable energies and hydrogen, hopes to complete a historic round-the-world trip.

The boat, actually named the Energy Observer, has been dubbed the “Solar Impulse of the seas” as it aims to match the plane’s historic solar-powered world trip.

The voyage will take approximately six years, and will be powered by the sun, the wind and self-generated hydrogen when it sets sail in February 2017.

The Energy Observer was designed in partnership with a team of naval architects and the CEA-Liten research institute – which is dedicated to renewable energy technologies – in the French city of Grenoble.

The plan is to install the multi-hulled catamaran with solar panels, wind turbines and electrolysis equipment which breaks down water to produce its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen.

The boat’s batteries, which will feed the electric motors, will be powered by solar and wind energy in good weather, and by stored hydrogen during the night and when there is no wind or solar power available.

As a result, the vessel’s trip will not use any carbon-emitting fossil fuels, as is the case for 96% of boats today.

Nicolas Hulot, former special envoy on environmental protection to President François Hollande, said: “I support it because it’s the first project of this kind to actually be undertaken, it’s ambitious and looking toward the future.”

He added: “The Energy Observer is going to demonstrate that you can have great autonomy (at sea) and you can store and find energy when there isn’t any more wind or sun.”

The Energy Observer’s route is to cross the Mediterranean before venturing out into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with 101 planned stopovers.

The Energy Observer’s trip is expected to cost a minimum of 4 million Euros a year, but the team is confident of raising the necessary funds.

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