Hydrogen, solar and wind: How this ship creates its own energy
6:53

Hydrogen, solar and wind: How this ship creates its own energy

Science
We are in San Francisco, California. And right behind me is a first of its kind vessel. That's the energy observer. And it is the first ship in the world to be powered by hydrogen and solar. They're letting us on board. So let's go take a look. [MUSIC] On this energy economist Zero emission 100 foot long catamaran could lay a glimpse into the future of transportation and much more. First put in French waters in 2017. The energy observer is essentially a floating science experiment. It spent the last 4 years sailing around the world Out to prove that if it's renewable technologies work on the open oceans, they can work at scale on land.>> Life on board is pretty fun. You get to know your colleagues really well. Katya Nicola spent the last year as the ship's onboard, scientists She showed us everything on board from the massive autonomously controlled sails to the sleeping quarters and the galley. So let's start with how the energy observer produces its own energy. So the main source of energy that we have as you can see it ��Solo panels we have solo panels everywhere.�� In fact, the ship is covered in 202 square metres of solar panels, enough to produce 120 kilowatt hours of energy. That's about half as much as a small us home may use in about a month. So you might be wondering how did they do any work on the ship when it's covered in solar panels like that? But as you can see, it's completely safe to walk on. I'm not damaging them at all With all the salt water and the storms and everything that we have even had lightning storms and things and they survived all those conditions, so if they can to live here, they'll work really well online. These downward facing panels even collect energy from light reflected by the water All that energy has been stored in batteries to power everything on the ship from the engines to the coffeemaker. In a day like today where we adopt what anchor, we're not navigating, we don't have engines, so we producing too much energy. So by lunchtime, the batteries are full and all the energy of the afternoon is going to be wasted. So instead of wasting it, we're gonna turn the excess of energy into hydrogen. So how did they do that? First, they use reverse osmosis to turn seawater into pure water. Then using the electricity stored in the batteries, they electrolyze the pure water, releasing the oxygen, leaving them with pure hydrogen. To then store in these big tanks and hydrogen, you really have to think about it as a storage of energy. So it's like the batteries, but it's a long term storage of energy. If we were to have the same amount of energy that we have in the hydrogen form, into battery forms, it would be 14 times [MUSIC] So we would just sink, [LAUGH] We'll just be too heavy. When the batteries start to run low, the crew can tap into those hydrogen stores using the same fuel cell found on the Toyota [UNKNOWN] to create electricity and recharge the batteries. In addition to the electricity, the fuel cell also creates heat which can be used to keep the cabin or they're stored water. The tanks can store enough hydrogen to power the ship for a full six days without any sun or wind, though that scenario is pretty unlikely. Speaking of wind, let's talk about those massive sails. These are Fully autonomous so they orient themselves automatically to get the best propulsion. So even if you're not a sailor, you can still use those. There's no ropes to pull or anything. You just push on the button they go up and you push another button they go down. The sails are designed to work like the wings on a plane, creating a difference in airspeed between the front and back which drags the boat forward. Another bonus of the design is that they don't create a lot of shade on those solar panels. Because otherwise we would have a big mass in the middle and like big sales and half of the ship would always be in the shade. Most of the time the ship is operating in a sort of hybrid mode, generating about half its speed from the engines and half from the wind. But it can run on wind alone with about 15 knots of wind power. [MUSIC] Hello Deck you've got the kitchen and the lounge area at the doubles as the cruise workspace. There are six cabins that can sleep 10 people comfortably 11 if they want to push it. Up above is the pilot house where the captain sits. Though the ship really does most of the driving. When we sailing we can tell tell the computer. Today I want you to keep a speed of five knots and the computer will automatically put enough energy in the engines to keep the five knots speed. That black compass sitting behind the wheel, that is a piece of history. He was on board the Solar Impulse to win in 2016. It became the first plane to circumnavigate the globe using only solar power. Back below the captain's seat is what the crew refers to as the real brains of the energy observer. So this tells us in real time, how much we producing and how much we consume So the goal here is really to try and balance our energy production consumption over a 24 hour cycle. Here you can see all the solar panels and how much they're producing each right now. So it's always like what's the most important thing today. We want to create energy. When do we want to go fast? An engineer on board is tasked with monitoring that energy. The crew often asked to ask him whether they can run the dishwasher or even have a hot meal. So if you were to make yourself a coffee or toast, you see that the numbers skyrocket, follow that before goes down. So also gives us a very good understanding of how much energy we using Every single day. I was personally very aware of my water consumption before coming on this boat, but not really my energy consumption. And it's quite amazing how much energy uses to make a coffee or have a warm meal. So far the crew says the ship is doing exactly what it set out, to do prove that these renewable technologies have viable real world uses. On its four year journey the energy absorber functioned perfectly in climates as hot has 130 degrees farenheit. As well as in frigid temperatures near the North Pole. And the technology handled it very well. The crew? [LAUGH] Not so well. So next up the energy absorber sets sail for Hawaii from San Francisco bay. And then beyond that, it's on to Japan for the Olympics. Now after that, they told me they don't really have a set schedule, but they're hoping to be back in Europe by 2024. So what do you think of the tech on this ship? Where else do you think [UNKNOWN] Can be applied to what other industries? Let us know in the comments below. As always, thank you so much for watching. I'll see you next time.

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