I get excited by every new superyacht sustainability project I find simply because I believe every step towards a cleaner future counts. But, after sitting down with Ben Medland, the Founder and CEO of Drift Energy at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show recently, I was more than just excited. I actually got goose bumps because it appears the solution he’s devised to produce an entirely new class of renewable energy is more than just a step. It’s a potentially planet-scale LEAP that’s charting a course towards true net-zero energy production for significant-yet-specific uses. And the basic concept is elegantly simple.
“The idea actually came when I was out for a walk with my son,” Medland tells me. “He was six at the time and a bit anxious about the planet from what he’d been hearing on the news. We talked about wind energy and other things people are working on to help. And then he pointed to a wind turbine that wasn’t spinning at the time and said ‘They need to turn that on.’
“And I said, ‘Well, there’s no wind, James.’ He was only six.
“And then he said, ‘We’ll why don’t they make one that follows the wind?’”
Talk about an “AH HA!” moment! Since that memorable walk with his son, Medland and his team have designed a 190-foot-long catamaran that’s not only capable of “following the wind,” but also generating massive amounts of electricity using turbines that capture the kinetic energy the catamaran produces moving through the water and storing that energy onboard as “green hydrogen.” Once its tanks are nearly full, the vessel then the proceeds to a designated port or location to offload. In the Superyacht context this can either be direct to the mothership or to bunker at her current port location. A single vessel is capable of generating over 140 tons of green hydrogen a year – a volume that would reduce over 1,500 tons of CO2 each year. They call their design the MVY—Most Valuable Yacht.
“The vast majority of the world’s renewable energy is over the oceans, so what better way to harvest it than using sailing vessels?” he says. “As the UN Global Sustainable Development Report 2023 shows, there has been a regression in climate action in recent years, especially in carbon-heavy industries like marine, so we think it is time to add another, sustainable way to accelerate the much needed reversal.”
I’m not a scientist by any means but, it appears this new class of vessel could make yachting truly sustainable by providing the missing link to green fuels. And it’s not only yachting that stands to benefit. Drift’s technology can also accelerate the pace adoption by effectively by-passing the costly and time-consuming requirement for fixed infrastructure and grid-based energy production, while also avoiding the traditional constraints of port bunkering and insulating owners from inflationary pressures on fuel and carbon pricing.
The technology also provides a new pathway to grid-scale clean energy. One that has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by gigatons by 2050 and support the superyacht industry and small island nations too.
Drift Energy appears to be way more than just another “concept.” In fact, the company has just announced forming a partnership with Shadowcat, who are known for building award-winning yacht support and adventure catamarans.
And I love that superyacht sector could actually be leading the charge towards a more sustainable energy future because the collaboration combines Shadowcat’s knowledge and history in delivering logistical support vessels in the Superyacht industry with Drift Energy’s technology that provides the ultimate energy support vessel for the mothership.
“The ethos behind MVY is a great fit with the Shadowcat brand,” said Jennifer Smith Director of Business Development, Shadowcat. “Our experience and knowledge in delivering shadow vessels to the superyacht industry means we know how ready the market is for this technology. This collaboration with DRIFT means we can accelerate the availability of this almost perfect future fuel wherever it is needed. Owners are hunting for opportunities to go greener and we are proud to work with DRIFT to offer this unique solution.”
The only question is: who will be the first superyacht owner to make history and build the first net-zero superyacht using this technology? Because thanks to Drift Technology and Shadowcat, they could literally start now.
I still have goose bumps.