Port of Antwerp throws festival to welcome hydrogen-powered boat


Flanders’ biggest port invites visitors to the Watt’s Next festival of green energy, which accompanies the week-long visit of the Energy Observer


Energy Observer, the world’s first autonomous hydrogen-powered boat, is coming to Antwerp this week. The port of Antwerp is marking the occasion with the Watt’s Next festival, built around innovations that can help meet the energy challenges of the future.

Energy Observer is a former racing catamaran that has been fitted out to run entirely on renewable energy. Solar panels and wind turbines mounted on the boat generate electricity, which is stored in batteries and used to produce hydrogen from seawater. This hydrogen is then used in a fuel cell to power the vessel when solar and wind power are not available, and the batteries have run down.

The boat (pictured) is currently touring the world, testing the technology in different extreme conditions and spreading the message that it represents a model for future energy networks. It arrives in Antwerp on 21 March and will moor near the Noordkasteel basin for eight days, in the shadow of the spectacular Port Authority building.

Watt’s Next

As well as presenting the Energy Observer and hosting a daily exhibition about its technology, the port is showcasing its own interest in green energy. The Watt’s Next Energy Festival this weekend includes an interactive exhibition of renewable energies and technologies such as carbon capture. Visitors can also take a virtual reality tour of a wind turbine, climbing up to the gondola and blades.

Other attractions include visiting the Hydroville, a hydrogen-powered passenger boat operated in the port by shipping company CMB. Its hydrogen is not generated on board, but is a by-product of a local chemicals company.

Finally, there are tours of the Port Authority building, showcasing its energy innovations. These are free, like the rest of the festival, but places must be reserved in advance.

Photo courtesy Energy Observer