The world’s first energy self-sufficient seagoing vessel powered by hydrogen, Energy Observer, is currently visiting French Guiana. This is Energy Observer’s 61st stopover around the world since 2017.
In Spring 2017 the boat started a world tour lasting 6 years in order to optimize its technologies and lead an expedition that will serve sustainable solutions for energy transition.
Energy Observer is the first vessel in the world to both generate and be powered by hydrogen. The energy system encompasses 3 renewable energy sources: sun, wind and hydropower with two types of storage: li-ion batteries for the short-term and hydrogen for the long-term. The ship is able to produce hydrogen directly onboard, through seawater electrolysis.
The most abundant chemical element in the universe, lightweight and boasting an energy density that is 3 times greater than traditional fuels, hydrogen enables excess surplus energies to be stored.
The 63kg of hydrogen stored on board Energy Observer provides 1MWh of electricity, equivalent to the average electricity consumption of a 4-person household for one month and 10 days and also 1 MWh of thermal energy that can be used for heating and hot water. If Energy Observer were to store her energy using solely traditional batteries, she would weigh twice her actual weight.
The trip to French Guiana
Guided by Victorien Erussard, founder of Energy Observer, the crew will visit a major scientific site, the Guiana space centre which is managed by the CNES (the national centre for space studies), an educational and scientific partner of Energy Observer.
Since 1964 French Guiana has become an iconic site in the global mission to conquer space. Today, space is developing new ways to try to understand climate imbalance and monitor its evolution. As discussed in a previous post, European satellites of Copernicus are providing scientists data required to model the climate and monitor ecosystems and the chemical composition of the atmosphere.
If space exploration has allowed mankind to travel thousands of kilometers from Earth, today it allows us to realize how unique it is, and that it is essential to preserve it.
French Guiana has its own challenges to face. With a growth in the population in recent years the demand for electricity has increased pressuring the supply of oil-fired power stations which has now become a particularly hot topic. In 2000, less than 20% of the energy consumed in French Guiana came from renewable sources with over 80% coming from oil imports.
During its visit, the crew of Energy Observer will likely witness the difficulty of local energy production and the failed attempts to utilise renewable energies. Nevertheless, French Guiana is keen to find a way to rely on its natural assets. Biomass, photovoltaics and hydrogen will enable the region to quickly make their energy transition a reality.
If you are interested to follow Energy Observer’s odyssey you can read more on their website, see link below.