A man works on the hull of the Energy Observer on Sept. 6 in Saint-Malo, western France. The Energy Observer will be the first autonomous boat powered by hydrogen and renewable energy. LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

First renewable energy boat to sail around the world

Donna Tam Sep 12, 2016
A man works on the hull of the Energy Observer on Sept. 6 in Saint-Malo, western France. The Energy Observer will be the first autonomous boat powered by hydrogen and renewable energy. LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images

The first boat to be solely powered by renewable energy will set sail for what its crew hopes is a historic around-the-world trip, the Agence France-Presse reported today.

The Energy Observer, a vessel that hopes to follow in the footsteps of the solar-fueled plane Solar Impulse, plans to start its trip in February and complete its voyage over six years. It draws power from sun, wind and self-generated hydrogen.

Currently docked on France’s west coast, the Energy Observer will be equipped with solar panels, wind turbines and equipment that will break down water to produce hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. The boat was used by a champion sailing team before researchers bought it for the renewable energy project.

The upgrade will cost $4.72 million and the project is a partnership between naval architects and the CEA-Liten research institute, an organization dedicated to developing renewable energy technology. A rendering shows a much more futuristic-looking vessel.

As was the hope with the Solar Impulse, the technology used on the boat could lead to developing technology for widespread use. One possibility is incorporating hydrogen storage into houses as an energy source. This kind of storage can store 20 times more energy than conventional batteries, a project head told AFP.

Similarly, the Solar Impulse‘s creators hope the plane’s technology will encourage commercial airlines to develop hybrid gas and solar planes.

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