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The team behind the Energy Observer stopped off at the Paris Boat Show to review the vessel’s first two years on the water. A racing catamaran turned floating test lab, it now trials clean energies and has just spent the last 18 months travelling nearly 20,000 kilometres without using fossil fuels of any kind. The hybrid boat is powered by electricity and hydrogen and its propulsion system has the potential to be employed elsewhere.


Energy Observer has sailed nearly 20,000 kilometres around France and the Mediterranean since 2017, all on clean, renewable energies. Built it 1983, it was formerly a racing catamaran and was skippered to victory by Peter Blake in the 1994 Jules Verne Trophy. Having since been converted into a floating test lab and had its sails removed, it now trials various types of non-polluting energies, assisting with their development, as reported by FranceInfo.


Clean energies poised to take over


“It allows us to test, in hostile conditions, energy systems that point the way to a carbon-free world, which is one we all want to see, by hooking electric propulsion up with different renewable energy sources,” said Victorien Erussard, the skipper of Energy Observer. These various modes of propulsion are used in conjunction with each other, which means the boat never has to fill up with fuel.

A review of the first phase of the navigation experience was provided at the Paris Boat Show on Monday 10 December. During its 18 months at sea, the boat was 40% powered by electrical energy and 60% by hydrogen, which was generated on the boat itself using sea water and fuel cells.

Propelled by its environmentally friendly power sources, Energy Observer has visited a number of countries, travelling from Paris to Athens (Greece) and stopping off at various ports of call in France and the Mediterranean along the way, including La Rochelle, Marseille, Malta and Venice (Italy).


Northward bound


While Energy Observer is the first boat of its kind, the clean energies used to power it could be harnessed in a number of other environments. “The boat is a representative mobile sample of these energy micro-networks,” said engineer Didier Bouix, the head of the environmental project, in conversation with FranceInfo. “They could be adapted to micro-neighbourhoods and houses, and used with solar and wind energy.”

“There’s no miracle solution for combating global warming: there are solutions, which we should learn to apply in conjunction with each other,” Erussard told France Inter before the boat’s departure in 2017. “That’s what we’re doing with Energy Observer.” On its next mission the boat will head to northern Europe in March 2019, a voyage during which the efficiency of its wingsails will be put to the test.


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