Sailing into a Greener Future

With COP26 having generated significantly higher profile and action for ESG and Net Zero (no doubt accelerated further by availability/pricing of fossil fuels), it is great to see innovative new solutions being developed to support greener energy generation. This one caught my eye in the Times (helped no doubt by the accompanying picture of a foiling catamaran flying over the waves!).  

In essence a core thesis here is that a wind farm is frequently “becalmed”, with insufficient wind to fully power up the generators. Using a fleet of mobile platforms that can generate energy as they move can reduce the time spent in no/low wind, increasing the time energy is being generated to its full potential by a huge 86%. Rather than electricity, this generates hydrogen from seawater, which can then be delivered to the required location.

As the team acknowledges, the program will only be only a contributory building block to a greener future, and will need to work alongside other initiatives being championed by equally enthusiastic teams elsewhere. Achieving Net Zero will require a combination of radical thinking, re-purposing and development of existing technology and, importantly, collaboration.

Collaboration within this particular solution appears to have been demonstrated to reach this stage at Drift: Hydrogen generation and storage as the boat flies just above the water uses the combined technologies of foiling (think America’s Cup or SailGP) alongside AI routing software to ensure the vessels are optimally positioned relative to the wind. 

Hopefully, Drift can turn into a useful contributor to improving low impact energy solutions. Whether it is a commercial success in isolation, or simply produces insights which perhaps solve problems for other innovation, will depend on successful scaling.

At Polestar, we frequently see strong technological solutions as a shining beacon to the ingenuity around us.  Of course, not all such innovations are bound for commercial success. Innovators with aspirations to become entrepreneurs need to be alert to the different skill sets needed to build a successful business – particularly in the current market, funders are looking for a cohesiv team with a strong sales and commercial perspective (backed up by real data points on performance), alongside the ingenuity and technical strengths that often form the basis of the technology start-up.

Faculty has calculated a seven-day voyage from New York to Penzance would produce a load factor (the proportion of time the boat is producing maximum energy) of 72.5 per cent. In comparison, a stationary offshore wind farm, which only produces energy when the wind blows in its precise direction, has a load factor of 39 per cent. Onshore wind farms produce a load factor of 26 per cent and UK solar farms about 9 per cent.

By Richard Hall on 28/07/2022