The startup believes that an AI-guided hydrofoil flotilla is the key to green hydrogen

Wind power is a promising source of green energy and one that could play a role in the production of green hydrogen. The British startup Drift Energy shows a different variant of this idea. Instead of generating electricity from windmills, his plan involves using AI-controlled hydrofoils to generate the electricity needed for electrolysis. These yachts would then deliver green hydrogen to ports around the world to use as an energy source.

Drift plans its yacht-based energy system as a highly flexible, decentralized generation and distribution solution with green hydrogen as the storage medium. The idea is that his hydrofoils convert wind power into electricity by pulling underwater turbine generators, which in turn power electrolysis, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen would then be shipped to nearby ports and distributed to customers.

The ocean is used not only to power Drift’s turbines, but also as a raw material for electrolysis. Each yacht would be fitted with an electrolysis plant capable of generating megawatts of hydrogen from readily available seawater. Tons of hydrogen could then be stored in commercial tanks on the ship before being shipped back to shore.

Drift sailing yachts would operate in flexible flotillas operating around the globe in the major ports closest to customer bases. That way, they could be placed exactly where they are needed most and easily moved to other areas as the need shifts. Drift believes it can build and deploy individual flotillas in 1/10th the time it would take to design and construct an offshore wind farm of comparable capacity.

By generating power on the yachts themselves, Drift skips much of the infrastructure and resources required for traditional offshore wind power

By generating power on the yachts themselves, Drift skips much of the infrastructure and resources required for traditional offshore wind power

drift energy

Drift’s prototype sailing yacht was adapted from a used vessel built by its partner White Formula. A hydrofoil construction was an obvious choice as it could reduce drag and more efficiently convert wind power into the forward momentum that drives the underwater turbines. Drift’s hydrofoil design comes from the Americas Cup and Vendee Globe racing series.

While the drift “flying yacht” is the face of the idea, the autonomous system that controls the fleet is the secret of its success. Using a combination of traditional weather forecasting and artificial intelligence, the navigation software is tasked with adjusting the course of week-long voyages to ensure the best combination of wind and wave conditions for sustainable power generation. The yacht fleets should always operate as efficiently as possible. The software can also react to market changes in real time and reroute boats to ports with higher demand.

Using this efficiency optimization software, Drift’s AI partner faculty predicts that hydrofoil fleets could more than double existing UK wind farm load factors. The load factor is a ratio of the actual amount of energy produced to the maximum production potential of a system over a given period of time.

There are still many “ifs” and unproven innovative concepts in the drift ecosystem, but the company announced its first successful test at sea last week. Its prototype yacht was able to produce 6 liters of green hydrogen in a two-hour test off the coast of Brightlingsea, exceeding the company’s expectations.

“This is a real breakthrough in creating a net new class of renewable energy that is mobile, scalable and antifragile,” said Ben Medland, Drift’s Founder and CEO, following the trial. “We knew from computer modeling that our concept had tremendous potential as it is essentially a mosaic of proven technologies such as commercial electrolysis units, turbines and hydrogen storage tanks. These first sea trials prove that our energy yachts work in the real world.”

Recognizing that it cannot solve the green energy problem on its own, Drift calls itself an “AND” solution designed to complement existing green energy systems. As next steps, the company will conduct further sea trials, advance plans for sailing yachts capable of producing hydrogen at speeds in excess of 250,000 liters per hour, and allow multiple vessels to work together for the first time. It will also compete in the Great Britain Sail Grand Prix in Plymouth, England on July 30th and 31st.

Source: drift energy

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