This Friday, March 8, 2019, Energy Observer, the first hydrogen ship around the world, will be relaunched in Saint-Malo after a long optimization project. The technical objective of this project is precisely to test, validate and make reliable technological innovations under the harshest conditions, which will be those of the Baltic and Arctic Circle in 2019. This Odyssey towards the North of Europe will also aim to meet pioneers and solutions for the planet, in the heart of these territories which, for the most part, have succeeded in their energy and ecological transition. The crew of Energy Observer will try to understand how they have managed to make the transition from political discourse to economic, industrial and social reality.
Energy Observer is the first energy self-sufficient hydrogen ship without greenhouse gas emissions or fine particles. This ship of the future with electric propulsion is powered by a mix of renewable energies and a system for producing decarbonated hydrogen from seawater and solar energy.
This technological and scientific challenge aims to test, under extreme conditions, cutting-edge technologies prefiguring tomorrow's energy networks, applicable in terrestrial environments.
The ship is currently completing a six-year Odyssey into the Future (2017-2022), 50 countries, 101 stopovers, led by Victorien Erussard, founder and captain, and Jérôme Delafosse, expedition leader and documentary filmmaker. A world tour to become a showcase for innovations in ecological transition, to raise awareness about renewable energies, biodiversity, agroecology, mobility and the circular economy, during the stopovers in his itinerant village and on social networks. This 21st century expedition has as its permanent course the implementation of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, of which Energy Observer wants to be the first ambassador for France.
After a stopover in Dunkirk, which is intended to salute the efforts of Engie and the Region to develop Power to Gas solutions (injection of decarbonated hydrogen into natural gas networks), the first major Energy Observer meeting will take place from 21 to 29 March in Flanders, the capital region for maritime transport. Hosted by the Port of Antwerp and the Compagnie Maritime Belge, a pioneering company in hydrogen combustion and partner in the project, Energy Observer will be moored under the spectacular Zaha Hadid building that houses the harbour master's office of one of Europe's leading merchant ports.
During this stopover, the Energy Observer village will be animated by numerous events, such as the European Commission's Innovation Mission and daily school visits.
The Netherlands and Germany, meeting the industries of ecological transition
The second important stopover will be Amsterdam, where many startups, universities and colleges of technology will gather around Energy Observer and its partners. Then the vessel will reach Hamburg on 26th April to remain there until 12th May, a special guest of the Port which will celebrate over three centuries of existence with the presence of all the economic stakeholders of the region. It should be remembered that the aeronautics and rail industries (including the first hydrogen train developed by Alstom) are very present in this particularly dynamic region in matters of energy transition, as is the whole of Northern Europe besides.
Scandinavia, driving the hydrogen revolution
Energy Observer will continue its meetings in Scandinavia with this ecological and energy revolution with forced march, setting up its village in the iconic places of the most dynamic capitals: Copenhagen from 16 to 19 May, Stockholm from 24 May to 2 June. Then there will be Helsinki from 13 to 16 June and Saint Petersburg from 20 June.
Odyssey for the Future will cross the White Sea and the Boreal Forest
Energy Observer will then set off on an expedition to reach the White Sea via the White Sea Canal, after the Russian authorities have granted permission. The Odyssey for the Future will cross the boreal forest, which alone absorbs nearly 20 % of the world's CO2, the lakes of Karelia and the White Sea Canal, which has left so many traces in Russian history, will cross near the Solovetsky Islands to finally return to Norway after the North Cape at the end of July 2019.
Norway, the break with soft energies
The expedition will descend from the Arctic Circle along the beautiful Norwegian coast from the Lofoten Islands to Bergen in mid-September. Even though Norway has immense hydrocarbon reserves, it is deploying a radical strategy towards electric and especially hydrogen transport in order to become a world leader in these technologies.
Scotland and London, pioneers of clean public transport
Finally, at the end of September, Energy Observer will go to Scotland and the Orkney Islands to welcome the very many clean initiatives that have taken an exemplary green turn. This northern tour will end in London from 4 to 13 October, under the famous London Bridge. The British capital is also deploying an ambitious policy towards hydrogen, like the Scots, and is home to the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization. Energy Observer will be appearing before this institution, which regulates maritime safety and pollution standards, from May onwards.
During this trip to the far north, Energy Observer's media teams will produce several types of content: around sixty short films for the Solutions web series, available on the future Energy Observer media platform, Solutions and social networks with the support of the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, four 52-minute films to complete the documentary series of the Odyssey for the Future on Planète + and finally, a 90-minute long film that will be broadcast as a bonus on Canal+. This is a great adventure for the film crew, which this year has been strengthened by four new members.
Energy Observer, the floating laboratory continues its technological evolution
After 16 months of sailing around France and the Mediterranean, it is time for the first technological assessment of the floating Energy Observer laboratory. A positive assessment for this unique energy architecture, developed in collaboration with engineers from CEA-Liten. This assessment is accompanied by technical and technological adjustments to improve the boat's energy performance.
Three major projects monopolized the engineers this winter: the caloric optimization of the hydrogen chain, the development of solar energy and the integration of VPLP Design's OceanWings.
A fuel cell produces as much electricity as it does heat, but the latter is often neglected. A very efficient system was studied and implemented this winter, which makes it possible to pool all the fluids on board by recovering all the heat (especially fuel cell, electrolyser, transmission reducers) so as to exceed 85% of effective efficiency.
The solar energy continued its irresistible expansion on the floating laboratory deck. The progress made on encapsulation allows SOlbian, Energy Observer's technology partner, to occupy an additional 25 m2 thanks to flexible, non-slip modules designed to measure.
Finally, the OceanWings complete their intensive tests at the CNIM before being installed on the boat. Two 31.5 m2 two-flap wings, which can be lowered, arranged and automated, will be installed on each of the floats of the experimental vessel: a technology that has never before been tested on such a large scale on a ship.
"Beyond the pure technology, which we are eager to test on board as the system looks so efficient and automated, I deeply believe that these wings can be a real technological breakthrough in reducing energy costs for commercial ships.explains Victorien Erussard. Combined with hydrogen, it is the winning combo for clean shipping".
"We share with Energy Observer the same value: the need to act on climate change and on maritime transport.explains Marc Van Peteghem, naval architect and co-founder of VPLP design. With Oceanwings® we offer a simple, safe and automated wind propulsion system. This solution is a complementary source of energy for Energy Observer and its installation on the ship is a first step towards its democratisation in the maritime sector ".
All the control systems, motors, control electronics and automation are installed in Saint-Malo, with the composite aerial parts being installed in Antwerp and then Amsterdam. More than a boat, Energy Observer is experimenting at sea with the system that prefigures the energy networks of tomorrow: decentralized, decarbonized and digitalized. Innovations that will be put to the test in the North Sea, the Baltic and the White Sea...