Solar-hydrogen racing yacht to circumnavigate the globe


The yachting community is soon to see a new entrant that will change the way boats are propelled across the water. OceansLab, a cleantech accelerator, is developing a racing boat powered by solar and hydrogen.

The racing yacht will be skippered by Phil Sharp, inventor of the boat’s on-board hydrogen power module and a specialist in recyclable composites. Sharp has stated a mission to race around the globe non-stop in the world’s first hydrogen electric yacht, potentially adding to more than his previous 25 podium visits in Transatlantic and coastal races.

OceansLab announced it has found a supplier in Maxeon Solar Technologies to provide its solar cells to cover the surface of the yacht. Maxeon’s SunPower brand interdigitated back contact (IBC) cells, sporting a 24.8% efficiency, will cover 16 square meters of boat surface, adding on-site power generation to the boat.

The panels will provide an output of more than 3.6 kW, about half the size of a typical rooftop residential solar array, charging on-board batteries. A total of 1,000 Maxeon IBC cells will be installed and encapsulated in a protective film to ensure resistance to saltwater and impacts.

“We are pleased to be involved in such an ambitious project. Sailing the oceans requires an unprecedented level of performance and durability, making our unique solar cell technology the sole and best choice for OceansLab,” said Bill Mulligan, chief executive officer, Maxeon. “The boat features the same high efficiency, high-reliability cells as those found in our record efficiency solar panels powering homes, businesses and utility-scale power plants on land, worldwide – a true testament to our innovation as a global solar leader.”

A 15 kW Genevos marine hydrogen fuel cell will propel the boat, and the fuel cell company will develop the power management strategy and integration of the system in-line with marine safety standards. Oceanvolt, a Finnish electric boat motor manufacturer, will provide the boat’s 48 V electric propulsion system.

Image: OceansLab

“This collaboration will provide valuable insight and data that will assist in the further development of OceanVolt’s unique electric propulsion systems compatibility with hydrogen fuel cell technology. The ultimate goal is to bring increasingly sustainable and reliable solutions to the market specifically designed for racing purposes,” said Tommi Lassila, chief exeuctive officer, Oceanvolt.

The boat is slated to participate in several international races, emitting nothing but water as a by-product along the way. The race boat will compete in the IMOCA Globe Series races. Key events include Transatlantic races, the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Route du Rhum, and around-the-world races the Vendée Globe, and The Ocean Race.

“The OceansLab programme allows us to showcase the performance and durability of this technology in the toughest environment on earth. With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change targets for shipping emissions required to be reduced to zero by 2050, and the requirement for most vessels built from 2030 to be zero emissions, this campaign will be an important demonstration of how we can meet this target,” said Sharp.

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