ACCIONA 100%EcoPowered, an innovating project.

By Tecnotalasa

The IMOCA Open 60 ACCIONA 100%EcoPowered is an offshore sailing boat designed within the IMOCA 60 rule but with the added value of sailing whilst respecting the environment. In 2012 and 2013 it participated in the Europa Warm'Up and the La Vendée Globe (solo, non-stop round the world race).

In 2011 Tecnotalasa joined the project. Their collaboration was based on the design, development and preparation of the energy systems on board the boat.

The boat has an innovative system on board that generates energy without using a drop of combustible fossil fuel and exclusively uses renewable energy. It is the first time in history that this kind of boat has been on the start line of a race: Europa Warm’Up and Vendée Globe 2012.

The boat complies with the IMOCA Open 60 specifications, the 60-foot racing boats that boast the most advanced technology in competitive sailing.

Unlike the conventional IMOCA 60 that carries almost 400 litres of fuel (to generate the energy necessary to run the navigation systems) IMOCA Open 60 ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered has sailed around the world with energy produced by the sea, sun and wind.
As well as ACCIONA’s Research, Development and Innovation department, some of the best professionals in the sector were involved in the design of the boat, to ensure its racing competitiveness and the operation of the equipment on board necessary to sail without generating any kind of emission.

Technological Innovation

The development has required two years of R & D and applied in two lines. On the one hand, to develop the concept of "zero emissions boat" define and design teams to ensure optimal and optimize power supply systems for navigation, communications, and hydraulic motors only from the sun, wind and water. The second R & D has been the selection and testing of new generation materials and design appropriate to maximize the hydrodynamics of sailing. The multidisciplinary team of 70 people who worked on the project included the direct involvement of Innovation shares.

Power generation system

The technological challenge in terms of energy generation was to develop a power generation system drawing from renewable power sources that could compete with the existing equipment powered by the fossil fuels in high-competition sailboats.
The first step was to conduct an in-depth analysis of the various renewable energy sources currently available and select the most suitable sources for testing and for use in mobile energy systems.

The power generation system actually consists of two systems: one for normal operation and one for emergency operation.

Power generation system

The operating mechanism is based on the conversion of solar, wind and hydrodynamic energy to generate electricity. The energy harvested from renewable sources is stored in high-density batteries.

Emergency propulsion subsystem

The emergency system is based on hydrogen power produced from renewable energy and stored in tanks at high pressure, converted into electricity by fuel cells.

Both systems feed a lightweight, high-torque electric permanent magnet propulsion motor. This is a synchronous motor especially suitable for use in these applications due to its robustness, its maintenance-free operation and high efficiency in converting electrical into mechanical energy.

The main energy source (solar, hydro, wind, etc.) varies depending on the speed, latitude, weather conditions and race performance. This control is done with the help of an intelligent automatic system, although it can be controlled and modified by the crew. In addition to all their other functions, they take on the role of “energy managers” of the boat, to optimize the delivery and storage of energy.

Development of the power system

We have developed a solar panel system that can withstand heat and mechanical pressures. It is also more manageable and has radiation-resistant materials. Semi-flexible thin panels to fit the hull shape have been used, featuring monocrystalline technology that allow them to adapt to the shape of the boat.
Solar panels—with a total area of 12 square meters—have been integrated into the hull of the boat, forming eleven independent solar panels. The back of the boat is moveable with respect to the longitudinal axis of the solar arrays in order to optimize panel orientation.

Two wind turbines have been installed, each capable of producing up to 350W. The wind generators were placed in the back of the boat after several tests to discover the degree of system efficiency and power capacity requirements in each area of the vessel, and once the position of the solar panels had been determined.
The aim was to ensure a certain level of power in specific wind conditions.
To this end, a system of two hydrodynamic generators was designed with an output of 400W each, submerged in the back of the boat. The system features a safety device that activates automatically in case of collision and raises the generators to a safe position.
To choose the storage batteries, a feasibility study was carried out looking at possible existing suppliers with the aim of selecting the most secure and stable battery system that could provide the most energy.
Battery charging and depletion scenarios were replicated according to the possible scenarios that may come into play in the boat along its routes to validate overall energy performance of the system.
The hydrogen fuel cell system is the backup power system. Its aim is to ensure a minimum energy intake in situations where the remaining energy subsystems cannot be used.
The need to install a hydrogen system such as the one proposed is to ensure the autonomy of the vessel by reducing the weight of the system as much as possible.