A former racing boat converted by engineers at CEA-LITEN (fr) to run on a self-fueling engine without greenhouse gas emissions, has begun its 6-year voyage around the world. The Energy Observer, launched from Paris on 7/15/2017 and is headed towards the Atlantic Ocean on the first leg of its long voyage. The multi-million-dollar boat is self powered by day using sun and wind energy via solar panels and wind turbines. By night the 100-foot-long vessel taps into a reservoir of hydrogen that the boat itself produces through electrolysis of the salt water stored in a hydrogen fuel cell system. Energy Observer is also fitted with a kite sail that is meant to play the dual role of aiding in navigation and producing power. Prevailing wind pushing on the sail is converted to mechanical energy that will make the propeller spin into electrical energy at a yield between 2 to 4 kW of power.
The last solar powered boat to circumnavigate the globe, MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, was nearly three times heavier than the Energy Observer, which uses hydrogen tanks instead of much heavier batteries. In theory the Energy Observer is a much faster boat than PlanetSolar, which went round the world in 18 months. The Energy Observer will do its world tour in six years, as it makes around 100 stop-offs in 50 countries, showcasing the potential of renewable energy at various destinations throughout the world.
Documenting it all will be French marine life documentary maker Jerome Delafosse, who has been diving into oceans the world over, but will be doing his filming above water this time. Captain Victorien Erussard, a former offshore racer, stated on the ship’s website that he hopes this project will help launch a grassroots movement of emissions-free travel. The boat will have plenty of living space for the crew with six cabins equipped with a bathroom, shower and toilet. But there will be long voyage intervals without stops, like crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and extreme temperatures as they pass through chilly Norway and the high temperature nears the equator. The team is anxious to see how the Energy Observer sustainable systems will handle these extreme conditions and expecting they will need to do some fine tuning along the way.