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The sustainability of yachts has long been a topic of discussion. Luckily, the relatively small scale of the superyacht industry means that change can be implemented fairly quickly if given the support of yacht designers, builders, owners and other key players.

This was an opportunity noticed by the TU Delft Solar Boat Team, who have been working on solar energy projects for the last 15 years. In 2020, the 20 ambitious multidisciplinary students noticed a new opportunity in hydrogen power and put their studies aside for a full year to dedicate themselves to proving that the pleasures of sailing and yachting are still possible without having a destructive effect on our ecosystems.

The students of TU Delft said, “We believe that hydrogen plays a key role in sustainable boating and yachting. Being very energy dense and capable of meeting the needs of power-heavy systems like boats, it is the most suitable energy carrier for the scale of yachts. Batteries are more efficient than a hydrogen system, but they have a lower energy density at 0.4MJ per kilo, than hydrogen, which holds 120MJ per kilo. This means that you can’t take your yacht very far before it runs out of energy.

“Companies such as Hynova and SBM Offshore are already displaying the possibilities of hydrogen, integrating it with solar and battery systems. There are several reasons that batteries synergize with hydrogen. A fuel cell cannot supply exactly what the motor needs, and this excess energy can best be stored by a battery. Additionally, hydrogen needs time to supply power, where batteries can do this instantaneously, allowing for smooth throttling. Solar panels are a good way of lengthening the range of a yacht, since it is an independent energy source. It does not supply enough power for the entire boat, which is how hydrogen complements solar.”

The Hydro Motion project will see the team move away from the solar engineering of their past projects to design, build and race their first hydrogen powered boat – a 8.3-meter-long trimaran which will see the hulls of an older solar boat reused and completely refitted for the new purpose. The students are implementing a complete hydrogen system, the smartest software and the strongest wings, to make the boat not only sail, but also fly.

To show what is possible, the students will race for the world championship in the Solar & Energy Boat Challenge on the open sea of Monaco between the 6th and 10th July 2021.

Southern Wind Shipyard partners with TU Delft

Southern Wind Shipyard, along with the other partners, have been supporting the mission of the TU Delft team throughout the project. We hope this partnership will help to inspire the maritime sector, currently a large consumer of fossil fuels, to move faster towards a green future, and the view that hydrogen is one of the most interesting sources to produce clean energy for yachts.

TU Delft Hydrogen Sustainable Boating Project

Southern Wind Shipyard will be moving towards environmentally friendly yachting step by step, adopting green technology as it becomes mature, safe and reliable. One of the first steps in this evolution is the new diesel electric SW108 Hybrid sailing yacht. This yacht currently uses two or more highly efficient generators and an electric propulsion motor. In time however, the idea is to replace one of those generators with a hydrogen fuel cell for boats, with a hydrogen charging station nearby. 

The long-term plan would be to eventually rely on only a hydrogen fuel cell. This final step will bring some challenges in storing enough hydrogen, requiring either very large tanks or means of producing hydrogen onboard. For that reason, it will be a few years before the technology is ready to be implemented. However, Southern Wind will be working with TU Delft to deliver this future as soon as is safely possible, providing the ultimate sustainable luxury for our sailing yacht clients.

Hybrid Power Systems of the SW108 Hybrid Yacht
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SW108 Hybrid: A Sustainable Superyacht

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