A British startup Drift Energy announced that its first purpose-built hydrofoil sailboat has successfully produced green hydrogen gas in sea trials. The team claims it is the first foiling boat in the world to generate storable green hydrogen out at sea using just the power of the wind.
The sea trials of these ground-breaking energy yachts took place off the coast of Brightlingsea, Essex, earlier this month. During the sea trials, the vessel managed to produce around six liters (1.5 gallons) of green hydrogen over a two-hour test run. The trial was so successful that the energy yacht outperformed expectations and could have produced over ten times more of the green renewable gas.
The craft involved in the trials is an 18-footer energy yacht built by the White Formula of Brightlingsea, a third-generation boatbuilder with Olympic gold medal-winning heritage. Capable of reaching 25 knots (46.3 km/h) at full tilt, the yacht features an underwater propeller that spins at speed and drives a turbine to produce electricity. The electricity is then used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The secret ingredient behind this breakthrough in marine energy production is a new artificial intelligence algorithm that uses data to find optimal weather conditions to route the vessels at sea. It is able to find the so-called “Goldilocks” of wind zones where the breeze is just right to maximize the vessel’s efficiency. The routing algorithm was developed by an artificial intelligence firm, Faculty, and works by analyzing weather forecasts and sea conditions to adjust the course of the boats in real time.
The Drift team has calculated that a flotilla of Drift’s energy yachts sailing from New York to Penzance could achieve a load factor of 72.5%. By comparison, verified load factors for wind turbines in the UK are 26.5% for onshore wind farms and 39.9% for offshore wind farms.
“This is a real breakthrough in the creation of a net new renewable energy class – which is both mobile, scalable, and anti-fragile. We are thrilled to have produced the world’s first green hydrogen from a hydrofoil sailboat in the waters off Brightlingsea,” said Ben Medland, Founder and CEO of Drift Energy.
The UK-based startup intends to continue sea trials and increase the number of ships available to generate energy. It has plans to trial the technology in bigger watercraft, including a 130-foot yacht, within a year. A vessel of that size could produce in excess of 250,000 liters (55,000 gallons) of green hydrogen per hour.