Jenna Miller, Sustainable Investing Team
Traditionally, the super-wealthy have had an emissions problem. From private jets to extravagant food, a luxury lifestyle tends to be accompanied by a luxury carbon footprint. However, this is changing. Super-yachts, which are commonly 60 metres or longer and cost millions of pounds a year to run, are undergoing a transformation.
In the past, yachts have typically used gas or diesel as fuel, but increasingly green hydrogen is being considered as a clean alternative. Through using hydrogen as fuel, the emissions created are only water vapour and heat compared with Solid Oxide fuel cells, which ordinarily emit Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
Yachts go green
Fuel cells are carried on board and work by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. When this process is powered by renewable energy, the resultant fuel is green. Yachts are in an enviable position to be able to produce renewable energy whilst travelling along.
Yachts such as The Energy Observer have already invested in this sustainable innovation, allowing for a “green” way of travel around the world. Launched in April 2017, The Energy Observer is the first of its kind, with the ability to both create and be powered by hydrogen. Comprised of 200 square metres of solar panels, the Energy Observer soaks up light from the sky and ocean’s surface, which is then used to charge up 1500kg of electric lithium-ion batteries. Solid, computer-controlled “Ocean Wing” sails are also installed on either side of the Yacht, helping to reduce energy consumption by 18 – 42% depending on weather conditions. These wings allow the boat to create hydrogen whilst moving, by pulling seawater up and forcing it through a filtering system to remove the salt. It then removes the hydrogen from the water using electricity, compresses it and stores it in tanks. In August 2021, the Energy Observer recorded her milestone achievement of reaching 10,000 nautical miles covered in 2021 and 40,000 nautical miles since her departure in 2017.
The super yacht “Aqua” also runs on hydrogen in liquid form, stored on board in two 28 tonne vacuum isolated tanks at -253°C. Designed by the Dutch firm Sinot Yacht Architecture & Design, Aqua is estimated at $644 million and takes inspiration from the ocean and owner’s lifestyles. This cutting-edge superyacht boasts five decks and a minimalist Japanese beach style interior. The use of hydrogen fuel also promises reduced noise pollution and minimal vibrations, providing ultimate comfort for guests on board.
A catalyst effect
With the cost of mobile hydrogen fuel cells expected to drop with scale and manufacturing, as well as the increasing demand for sustainable maritime travel, the shift over to hydrogen-based fuel is gathering pace. Companies such as EO Dev (Energy Observer Developments) are testing out designs for floating hydrogen fuel stations, with a technically functional prototype hoping to be completed by the end of 2021.
EO Dev CEO Jeremie Lagarrigue has said that the “STSH2 station can support both land-based needs and local use for daily refuelling in the maritime sector”, making it a useful, multi-functional site for different modes of transport.
With these sustainable innovations coming to the surface, it is hoped that the combination of green tech and ultimate luxury will pave the way for a new age of environmentally friendly superyachts. Given the work required to achieve global agreed 2050 carbon targets, even the world of superyachts will have no choice but to adapt to a greener stance. We question how long before hydrogen superyachts are taking over Monaco Yacht show!
For a closer look at The Energy Observer, you can watch this video.
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