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Energy Observer, the vessel of the future, in San Francisco

by Energy Observer 11 May 2021 13:13 UTC 10-13 May 2021

The first vessel powered by renewable energies and hydrogen, the UN's French Ambassador for Sustainable Development Goals arrived in San Francisco, her 66th stopover on her round the world odyssey, on 6 May.

  • Energy Observer is a French project that set sail from Saint Malo in northern France in 2017 on a 7-year expedition around the world.
  • A world first, Energy Observer is a technological triumph: the laboratory vessel powered by renewable energies and hydrogen, navigates the oceans entirely self-sufficiently in energy and produces her own hydrogen aboard.
  • Energy Observer set to make her stopover in San Francisco from 10 to 13 May.

Following a stopover at Long Beach from 23 to 28 April, during which the boat played host to a number of the city's officials, including the Consul General of France, the local harbor authorities, as well as protagonists from the hydrogen and energy industries (California Fuel Cell Partnership, Engie, Air Liquide, Toyota, CMA CGM...), pioneering ecological transition companies like Sole Technology (ETNIES, Emercia, éS and Thirty Two brands), together with students from local schools and universities, the vessel cast off from the new AltaSea campus at the entrance to the port of Long Beach.

Considered to be the western gateway to the United States, thousands of vessels and trucks converge on this massive port to transport 40% of the goods imported into the USA each year, creating significant carbon emissions in the process. This event, organized with Energy Independence Now, gathered together numerous electro-hydrogen solutions around Energy Observer (including the new FCET (Fuel Cell Electric Truck) developed by Kenworth and Toyota, the new Mirai and terminal tractor), attended by professionals from the domains of energy and hydrogen mobility, media and influencers, as well as key figures and organizers committed to combating climate change (USC Arnold Schwarzenegger Institute, Robert Downey Jr's Footprint Coalition Foundation and actor Ronen Rubinstein, who is notably an ambassador for Project Zero...).

After spending several days punching into some particularly difficult weather conditions in a bid to make headway northwards, the boat of the future slipped under the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge and finally entered San Francisco Bay, where the crew received a generous welcome from the Consul General of France in San Francisco and Lieutenant Governor of California, Eleni Kounalakis.

Lieutenant Governor of California, Eleni Kounalakis: "The Energy Observer is on an incredible journey that is helping people across the world see that projects like this are literally charting the way to a clean energy future. Having the ship here in California is a testament to our shared values, and vision for bringing renewable and clean energy to the maritime industry."

Frédéric Jung, Consul General of France in San Francisco: "Tomorrow's energies are not utopias. Energy Observer, which is circumnavigating the globe powered solely by green energies proves this. The fact that this concentration of French technologies is stopping off in San Francisco, the cradle of America's technological innovations, is sure to create a buzz, especially in light of the fact that California, which is feeling the full force of climate change, is prioritizing energy, just like France."

Energy Observer is an experimentation platform, an intelligent boat, powered by renewable energies: sun, wind and marine currents. However, what makes her truly unique is her ability to store her energy in the form of hydrogen produced from the electrolysis of sea water, a technology which enables the vessel to navigate the oceans entirely self-sufficiently in terms of energy, without polluting the environment.

Elaine Forbes, Port of San Francisco Executive Director: "The Port of San Francisco is proud to welcome Energy Observer to San Francisco. The crew's important research will help propel maritime operations to a more sustainable future worldwide. The cutting-edge research happening aboard Energy Observer will inform water transit here in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. It is imperative that we develop new technologies and strive to be more energy efficient and improve water and air quality as the San Francisco Bay Area is impacted by sea level rise and climate change."

On the program for this stopover are a number of meetings and events, with the notable hosting of a webinar on the eve of the boat's arrival, on 5 May, with the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the California Hydrogen Business Council and the California Hydrogen Coalition, attended by Bill Elrick and representatives from Air Liquide, Engie, Toyota and CMA CGM, with the aim of exchanging ideas about the arrival of Energy Observer in California, as well as finding out all about her energy mix and her comprehensive on-board hydrogen production chain. Indeed, now more than ever before, multinational partnerships, technological and industrial cooperation and the complementarity of know-how are essential for speeding up the practical implementation of effective solutions to combat climate change.

Bill Elrick, Executive Director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership: "It's thrilling to be able to welcome Energy Observer - a world first - to the Golden State, and to show Californians the role that hydrogen and fuel cell technology can play in energy transition."

Victorien Erussard, Captain and Founder of Energy Observer: "We're very enthusiastic about our arrival in San Francisco after a very busy first American stopover at Long Beach, which was especially symbolic for us as the French ambassador for SDG, just as President Biden was hosting the Leaders Summit on Climate having newly reintegrated the Paris Agreement. The new American plan for 2,000 billion dollars of funding for infrastructure translates as an historic acceleration in green energies. California is really at the forefront of this revolution in energy and hydrogen!"

Other key events have been and will be hosted at various local scientific and cultural institutions, including one scheduled for 6 May on sustainable development and clean technological innovations organized by the Embassy of France's Office for Science and Technology in the United States with the NGO Sustainable Ocean Alliance, the first international network of ocean advocates, which is notably joining Energy Observer's scientific and educational partners. Meetings with the Exploratorium (a science and technology museum) and digital events for the various student cycles with the Consul General of France in San Francisco will round off an extensive and varied program.

During this stopover, the teams will also continue with their filming and get out and meet protagonists involved in energy and ecological transition.

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