WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Our ability to make zero emissions green hydrogen fuel from renewable sources is getting better all the time, and it will accelerate the energy switch from fossil fuels.
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As the world tries to wean itself off of fossil fuels alternatives such as renewable energy and hydrogen are the front runners, but in the latter’s case trying to create green hydrogen, which is the industry’s gold standard because it’s made from renewable energy sources, is not only difficult it’s five times more expensive than other kinds of hydrogen such as grey hydrogen, which is made from coal, and blue hydrogen which is made from gas.
Now though Drift Energy have become frontrunners in the race to produce green hydrogen after they announced that their first purpose-built hydrofoil sailboat – of all things – has successfully produced green hydrogen gas at sea while under taking sea trials.
The company’s innovative energy yacht, fittingly dubbed the “Flying Yacht” has managed the feat while flying over the water off the coast of Brightlingsea, Essex.
See it in action
During the sea trials, which took place earlier this month, the vessel produced around six liters (1.5 gallons) of green hydrogen over a two hour test run. According to the team, the results they obtained during the yacht’s maiden voyage exceeded their expectations and the energy yacht could have produced over ten times more green hydrogen than it did.
The ground-breaking craft involved in the trials is an 18-footer (5.5-meter) built by White Formula of Brightlingsea, a shipbuilder with Olympic gold medal winning heritage. Actually, even the yacht they used for the trials is a statement of the company’s commitment to sustainability and a greener future, as the flying yacht is a second-hand vessel originally called “Whisper.” The high-performance and stability of the Whisper provided the team with a great platform for development.
Capable of reaching 25 knots (46.3 kph) at full tilt, the yacht features an underwater propeller that spins at speed and drives a turbine to generate power. The electricity is then used to separate water from the sea into hydrogen and oxygen.
Drift Energy claims its flying foiling boat is the first in the world to generate clean hydrogen using just the power of the wind while out at sea, and I think it’s right.
The secret behind this breakthrough in marine energy production is a clever routing algorithm that uses the power of data to find optimal weather conditions in which to guide the vessels while at sea. The routing algorithm was developed by AI firm Faculty and works by analyzing weather forecasts and sea conditions to continually optimize the course of the boats in real-time to ensure their highest possible utilization.
According to the Drift team’s calculations, a fleet of its ships sailing from New York to Penzance could achieve a load factor of more than 72 percent. To make an idea of what this means and how efficient the yachts are, know that verified load factors for wind turbines in the UK are 26.5 per cent for onshore wind farms and 39 per cent for offshore wind farms.
“This is a real breakthrough in the creation of a net new renewable energy class – which is both mobile, scalable, and anti-fragile. We are thrilled to have produced the world’s first green hydrogen from a hydrofoil sailboat in the waters off Brightlingsea,” said Ben Medland, Founder and CEO of Drift Energy.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved. DRIFT was founded only one year ago and in the last three months we have sourced, retrofitted and successfully trialled the first hydrofoiling hydrogen production yacht.”
Now that the concept has proven successful the UK based startup intends to continue sea trials and increase the number of ships available to generate energy. It also has plans to trial the technology on bigger water crafts including a 130-foot (40-meter) yacht which could prove capable of producing 250,000 liters (55,000 gallons) of the green gas per hour or more. The company’s founder mentioned their energy yachts could serve to produce energy to refuel massive hydrogen powered container ships out at sea, or to deliver hydrogen fuel to offshore tankers or ports. All of which, I’m sure, is just the beginning.