Voller Energy’s Emerald Fuel Cell yacht on ARC

Voller fuel cell equipped yacht
Voller Energy
Voller Energy’s crew onboard Emerald are progressing well on their ARC adventure.

The Emerald yacht has Voller Energy’s new ‘Emerald Fuel Cell System’ installed for the crossing. This will be the first yacht in the World to cross the Atlantic with a fuel cell system running off LPG, Propane or Calor Gas.

Pippa Wilson, selected as a member of the GBR Sailing Team for the Beijing Games, joined Voller Energy on board Emerald in London earlier in the year to wish the team good luck for the ARC.

The objective of entering the boat into the ARC is not only to create a world ‘first’, but also to test and improve the system under extreme conditions, thus providing customers with a system that has been tried and tested.

As the auto-pilot is being used extensively there is a considerable drain on the yachts batteries. The fuel cell automatically recharges the batteries when the voltage falls.

The crew can monitor and check on the fuel cell from a screen read out on a computer rigged in the main saloon area.

Voller’s fuel cell system is predicted to revolutionise power supply in the marine industry. Fuel cells work by converting the chemical energy in hydrogen to electrical energy. The Emerald creates its own hydrogen by chemically reforming the LPG fuel stored on board. The hydrogen is then combined with oxygen from the air across a special membrane. The outputs from the reaction are electricity, heat and water. No toxic emissions are produced.

Voller Energy is aiming to be the number one energy provider in the marine market, providing a reliable alternative to the traditional diesel generator.

The Emerald crew were selected to bring a range of skills and experience including boat handling, navigation, media, radio, safety and catering. Together with Skipper Mark Tilley (Voller Energy Marine Sales Specialist) the crew and the boat have undergone 3 months of preparation including specific training, upgrading of the boat, and of course the fitting and testing of the fuel cell.

Sunday (25 November), as with the previous two days, saw very windy conditions. This coupled with the ‘Acceleration Zones’ around the Canaries – areas where the wind funnels between the islands creating high wind speeds – made for a blowy start.

Tuesday (27 November): The crew were woken up to a beautiful sunny day today. The seas were calmer and a gentle 13 knot breeze is pushing them onwards. All a little different from the last couple of days when they experienced higher winds and big rolling seas.

They used the rough conditions yesterday to test the fuel cell and were delighted when it happily purred away undeterred by the buffeting of the weather. George Carins sat in front of his laptop monitoring various information the system was feeding back, as you can see from the attached photo.

The crew now have a fully charged set of batteries and they are all taking full advantage of the extra power by sending emails and keeping in touch with home and are looking forward to starting a nightly movie programme. The additional power means the boat has been equipped with a flat screen TV so they have brought along a stash of films to keep themselves amused. All they need now is the popcorn!

George Cairns, Emerald Crew Member and Development Engineer at Voller Energy, recounts in his latest blog entry;

We’re now entering day 6 at sea and everyone on board is settling into a nice little routine. The watch system, devised by Mark before leaving the UK, is working well and means that everyone gets their fair share of the favourite and not so favourite watches.

'As I write, the sun is shining but we have little wind. The wind is expected to pick up again tomorrow so hopefully we can make some good headway then. In the meantime we are using the calm conditions to catch up on a bit of reading, Mark on a spy novel, James on his boating magazines and me on a novel about patients in a mental institution (more entertaining than it sounds), George is creating lunch in the galley and Becci is catching up on some sleep after getting none last night as the engine was roaring in her ears – we had to use it for a couple of hours to stop us drifting backwards in the windless conditions.'

You can follow the Emerald’s progress online at http://www.voller.com/emerald/flash.htm