Energy Observer docks near Hua Hin to showcase zero emissions and clean technology

Image: Patrick Jacobs

The first boat to be powered solely by renewable energies and hydrogen stopped near Hua Hin as part of a world tour to raise awareness about clean energy.

The Energy Observer, a 30.5 metre catamaran, docked at the Race Marina in Pak Nam Pran on April 30 as part of a three week stay in the kingdom, which also included a trip to Pattaya where it was visited by Thierry Mathou, the French Ambassador to Thailand.

Prior to arriving in Thailand it had been in Singapore, the 70th stop on its voyage.

Image: Patrick Jacobs

The vessel was open to the public on May 1-2 before it is set to play host to a number of official engagements prior to it departing the region for Koh Samui on May 19.

The Energy Observer is a vessel like no other. It’s half floating laboratory, half clean energy advocate.

Since setting sail from the French port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany in 2017, it has navigated more than 40,000 nautical miles using only renewable energy.

The Energy Observatory is completely self-sustaining. It doesn’t use diesel, generates all the energy it needs on board and produces zero emissions.

According to the International Maritime Organization, maritime transport accounts for 2.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, emitting some 40 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. If emissions continue at the same rate, that figure is expected to rise to between 50 and 250 percent by 2050.

In order to try and prevent rising emissions from the maritime industry, Energy Observer is helping to demonstrate what green technologies can be used now and in the near future for sea travel.

Image: Patrick Jacobs

The emphasis of the voyage is that shipping and the maritime industry needs to be decarbonised as soon as possible, in order to limit its devastating impact on climate change.

The vessel is covered with solar panels, has two tall wings for propulsion and is powered by sun, wind and hydro-kinetic energy.

It creates its own hydrogen fuel from seawater as it sails along at speeds of up to 7 knots.

Salt and minerals are removed from the seawater before it is passed through an electrolyzer which splits the water into its elements: oxygen and hydrogen.

The oxygen is released but the hydrogen is compressed and stored in fuel cells or batteries that are located on either side of the Energy Observer.

Hydrogen power is used when wind or solar power can not be relied upon.

“The hydrogen power created by the Energy Observer is the equivalent of two megawatts of energy, which would be enough to power a couple of houses for a year,” captain Jean-Baptiste Sanchez told Hua Hin Today.

Image: Patrick Jacobs

Data gathered from voyage is being used in the research and development of hydrogen fuel cell technology for the maritime industry.

In its former life – before it was renovated with clean technology – the Energy Observer was originally named Formule Tag and was a champion racing sailboat. It was the first vessel of its kind to break the coveted ​​500 miles limit in 24 hours in 1984.

“Its past is that of a champion, and now it is a champion of sustainability and clean technology,” crew member and digital manager Anaïs Toro-Engel told Hua Hin Today.

Currently the Energy Observer has five crew members on board but Anaïs said there have been up to eleven people on board.

While Anaïs admitted that having eleven on board was a little cramped, inside the Energy Observer it is surprisingly spacious.

Each cabin is of a good size and there is also a roomy seating and dining area, as well as a fully stocked kitchen complete with all mod-cons, including a dishwasher.

After departing Thailand, the Energy Observer will sail to Vietnam and Singapore before heading onto India.

The vessel is then scheduled to visit Africa and South America before ending its epic voyage back in its native France in the summer of 2024.

Image: Patrick Jacobs
Image: Patrick Jacobs
Image: Patrick Jacobs
Image: Patrick Jacobs
Image: Patrick Jacobs