(E) Energy Observer, a 100-foot catamaran, is the first vessel that both generates and is powered by hydrogen. The boat started its seven-year voyage from Saint-Malo, France, in 2017, and arrived in the U.S. for the first time in Long Beach on April, and this month in San Francisco at Pier 9. It will continue its odyssey in the Pacific, and will be leaving San Francisco this week-end for Hawaii.
The boat showcases a 100% renewable energy mix, combining solar, wind and hydro-energy. Hydrogen is generated from the sea water, and the energy produced is stored in a hydrogen storage system using lithium-ion batteries.
“The energy system:
Solar energy – Two different technologies were used to make the 120 square metres of solar panels. The made-to-measure panels covering the deck are curved so that they hug the rounded hull. The bifacial panels with heterojunctions are designed to capture direct sunlight as well as the light reflected by the water and the boat. They are installed aft and along the entire length of the hull.
Storage – The lithium-ion batteries will be used for short-term storage and will supply two separate power systems – one 400 V and one 24 V. The first is used to manage power demands, propulsion, electrolysis and hydrogen compression; the second for life on board and for instrumentation and control and safety equipment.
A complete hydrogen system will be used for long-term storage. For this purpose, Energy Observer is equipped with a desalination system, an electrolyser, tanks and a fuel cell. This system will produce hydrogen from sea water, store it on board and use it to power the fuel cell. Electrical energy from the fuel cell will be fed back into the circuit, while reaction heat will be used to heat domestic water on board.
Complete system management – In addition to the equipment for capturing and storing energy on board the catamaran, CEA-LITEN’s teams developed the system for managing and monitoring the entire energy system. The goal is to ensure optimum operation according to resources, which vary depending on time of day and weather, and to the vessel’s itinerary. All the navigation data will be analysed in real time by the engineers in order to propose suitable scenarios.
When the boat is berthed, it does not consume any energy apart from what is needed on board. The solar and wind energy is used to recharge the Li-ion batteries. All the surplus energy goes to the electrolyser production and hydrogen storage system.
In favorable sailing conditions, generation and consumption are evenly balanced. The batteries are used to cover power demands and intermittency management for the various energy sources. While the smart kite is in use for long crossings, the propeller will go on turning and act as a dynamo and, in fact, become a hydrogenerator with its reversible motors.
When solar and wind energy is not enough to meet demand, the fuel cell, running on the stored hydrogen, provides the boat with yet more energy.”
Note: The picture above is Energy Observer crossing the Golden Gate.
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