Zero Emission Energy Observer lands in London

The zero emission Energy Observer ship, fuelled by only solar, wind and hydrogen has landed in London as the finale to the Northern Europe leg of its 6 year, 101 port round-the-world journey.

Energy Observer is the first ship to circumnavigate the globe using only renewable energy – with no emissions of any kind, either carbon or fine particles. The research vessel is on a mission to prove that a future where ships sail the ocean without burning fossil fuels is a viable possibility.

London, where EO will be docked under Tower Bridge, marks the end of the third leg of its odyssey, a total voyage thus far of 33,000 km / 20,000 miles. The first two legs took the boat around the coast of its home country of France and the second on a tour stopping at 21 ports in the Mediterranean Sea.

A large part of Energy Observer’s mandate is education, and both the boat and its travelling eco-exhibition will be open to the public while she is moored until October 9 at St. Katharines Docks on the Thames.

One of the most remarkable feats of the ship, beyond travelling so many miles without emissions, was its crossing the Arctic Circle and becoming the first zero-emission vessel to do so.

Visited 13 Northern Europe ports

At the London landing, Victorien Erussard, President, Founder and Captain of Energy Observer said “Managing a total autonomy navigation of 5700 km from Saint-Petersburg to Spitsbergen in the Arctic is a symbolic moment that reminds us of the urgency to act in the face of climate change, which is particularly prominent in the polar zone.”

During the Northern European leg the ship visited Antwerp , Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn, Saint Petersburg, Spitsbergen, Tromsø, Bogø and Alesund along the coast of Norway, finishing off with a stop in Aberdeen Scotland before London.

»» See all Plugboats articles about Energy Observer

Along the way its arrival was an impetus for each city to show off its own initiatives in terms of energy and environmental transition especially in Antwerp and Amsterdam where the ports are implementing lower carbon tactics  and technology in the servicing of the huge ships that dock and unload their cargo.

Aside from being one of the world’s supercities, London is also important because it is home to the the headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is under pressure to to implement regulations to reduce the shipping sector’s CO2 emissions.

“This event today makes things concrete and confirms the feasibility of zero emission maritime transport.” said France’s Ambassador to the IMO, Geneviève Van Rossum. “In order to achieve the objectives of the IMO strategy, new ships will have to use these technologies tomorrow.”

Zero emission ship powered only by sun, wind and sea.

So how does a 60 metre (200 foot) boat sail around the world with no emissions? Energy Observer uses a mix of solar, wind and hydro-generation.

a cutaway schematic of the Energy Observer showing the solar panels, sails and batteries
Click to visit the Energy Observer site’s interactive diagram

For collecting solar energy she has 141 square metre / 1500 sq ft of solar panels, for the wind there is a revolutionary OceanWings rigid sail system that optimizes the energy input of the wind (by up to 42%) and the boat’s motor acts as an electricity generating turbine when she is under wind propulsion.

All of these electrical sources connect to batteries and that stored energy is used to produce hydrogen, extracting it through electrolysis from the seawater the boat collects as it moves. This hydrogen in turn powers the fuel cells to drive the electric motor. No emissions. No fine particles. Just silent propulsion. In effect, a boat powered only by sun, wind and sea.

The Director General of IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) was also on hand for Energy Observer’s arrival. Francesco la Camera said “Energy Observer shows that with the innovations and technologies available today, it’s possible to accelerate low-carbon development to meet our climate and sustainable development goals.”

Energy Observer next stops: Africa and Asia

From London Energy Observer will return to her home port os St. Malo and get ready for the next leg which will literally take it around the world.

After each leg the scientists working with the floating laboratory make adjustments in every aspect of the boat to maximize energy conservation, production and storage.

a map of the world showing the stops and dates of Energy Observer zero emission ship's round the world odyssey

When she is set for the big journey – scheduled for 2020 – Energy Observer will go down the coast of Africa and around the continent to Asia and then prepare for the trans-Pacific leg in 2021, visiting the US West coast and then down and around Central and South America America and the East Coast of the USA in 2022.

As Energy Observer Expedition Leader Jerome Delafosse says:

The ecological transition needs to be seen as a promise for a better world. Through this exclusive Odyssey, we want to make people dream, to raise awareness, to prove that humans can live in harmony with nature and that the fight against global warming can open some doors to a new economic expansion.

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