Energy Observer has just left Royan, its 8th stopover on the Tour of France, and has begun its first major navigation, around Spain and Portugal, since the start of its Odyssey. This half way point of the Tour of France, gives us the opportunity to present a fresh update on the incredible adventure, Jérôme Delafosse, the Energy Observer crew and myself are currently lucky enough to experience.
After leaving Saint-Malo on August 25th, following a short summer technical stop, Energy Observer set out to sea again, towards Cherbourg. For this new departure, Nicolas Hulot, who has been the project’s ambassador since the beginning, did us the honour of inviting the French Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, on board. A perfect occasion to talk about the wonderful capacities hydrogen can present in an energy mix. Together with Nicolas Hulot, Florence Lambert and our partners, we were able to raise the Prime Minister’s awareness about the extraordinary potential of hydrogen as an energy vector and as a way of extending autonomy. The French state’s growing interest in our initiative underlines the value of our project and reinforces its credibility even more.
Next up, we headed for Cherbourg, the third stop of our Odyssey, where we were wonderfully welcomed by the city and the Manche Departmental Council. Thanks to Valérie Nouvel, La Manche was the very first region to express their desire to welcome us for a stopover, as early as 2016, when we had only reached the stage of a 3D project. So this was a symbolic stopover, where the crew was warmly greeted by Philippe Bas, the President of the Manche Departmental Council and Benoît Arrivé, the Mayor of Cherbourg-en-Contentin. The project in favour of energy transition carried out by the region has become a reality. Hydrogen vehicles have been operating there for the past two years, and the major players in renewable energies, such as Naval Group and EDF EN, are established in the region, proving the potential of hydrogen transport.
In Nantes, alongside the “Jules Verne 2”, the first passenger boat running on hydrogen, we moored on l’Île des Machines at the foot of the majestic elephant. Welcomed by Johanna Rolland, the Mayor of Nantes, we were able to see how energy transition is becoming a reality in her city. The fall in the production prices of renewable energies has enabled a large number of urban and industrial projects to launch, including the Delta Green programme, the first “energy-plus” office building, using hydrogen, in particular.
We then headed for Bordeaux, where we set up our travelling village for the last time on the west coast of France. Just a few yards away from Seeneoh, an experimental estuary site that tests marine current generators, we again met with local players involved in the ecological transition. Along with Jérôme, we had the particular chance to also visit a revolutionary winemaking site, soon to be the subject of a documentary series that Jérôme is producing for the Planète+ channel.
From a technical point of view, we are still optimising the boat’s energy performance. After the first tests on the wind turbines, we decided to leave one of them behind in Nantes, in the hands of the ICAM engineers, so they could conduct additional tests in the wind tunnel. This allows us to try out a horizontal wind turbine and compare the reactions of both technologies at sea.
Since we left Nantes, the traction kite has been an integral part of the boat’s architecture. Two wing sizes were tested by Yves Parlier’s team: 16 and 35m2. Launching and steering methods still need to be improved, but we are confident that these wings can reduce the boat’s energy output, and convert our electric engines into marine current generators.
But above all, the stopover in Nantes was the first where we managed to get our electrolyser to work, and therefore produce our own hydrogen from the Loire! We continued the tests in Bordeaux, even as we were sailing up the Garonne. As of now, our production line of decarbonised hydrogen using sea water is finally operational.
The west coast stopovers have given us the opportunity to enhance the reliability of almost all the boat’s technologies, it is thus with confidence that we begin the Odyssey’s major sea crossing towards the Mediterranean. In all, we reckon the trip will take about 20 days, with a few stops along the way to be decided, according to filming and weather conditions.
Meanwhile, part of Energy Observer’s travelling village was set up at the Palais de la Découverte in Paris, and the on-land team has begun preparing the Mediterranean stopovers, and even the fast-approaching European Tour of 2018. The village’s next stop will be at la Seyne-sur-Mer on November 18th. In the meantime, you can follow our adventures on our social networks, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our website. Of course, we’ll share all the highlights, even the trickier moments!
President and Captain of Energy Observer