The latest development in the field of environmentally conscious vessels comes from the U.S. wind turbine manufacturer, Inergy, who has recently revealed their first superyacht series of yachts that utilise wind energy. Named the Gemma Series, the flagship vessel will be the Gemma One, measuring 30.48 metres.
The Gemma One is described by Inergy as a new generation clean vessel: a practical, safe, conservatively styled, amenity-rich, and highly automated boat that can be 100% powered by renewable energy, offering nearly unlimited remote operation.
The wind turbine onboard is able to power and store the energy from the winds on the water, providing battery energy storage so that even when the vessel is stationary, it is producing and storing power. This works to eliminate many systems, drastically simplifying vessel operation and maintenance.
We asked Jamie Schlinkmann, company President and the engineer of the concept, whether or not he saw this new technology as a feasible future of yachting. The answer was a resounding yes, though of course he admits that there will always be owners who will not go for such a radically different superyacht platform. He says, “The technologies are all commercial now, but it still depends on perspective. There is definitely a class of owners that won't own a 70+ tonne vessel that doesn’t go 40 knots.
“Those people are happy having a revolving army of people maintaining their giant mechanical thermodynamic machines… and I have to say the gearhead side of me thinks that is pretty cool. But as I’ve gotten older and witnessed the changes to our reefs, and seen the unnecessary waste, the sustainable side of me has taken over. For the cruiser, trawler, sailor crowd…what could be better than no IC engines?”
For the superyacht crowd, however, is this going to be the kind of technology that will satisfy their needs and expectations of what owning and cruising with a superyacht should be? Schlinkmann tells us that it certainly can, and that this technology is just the first of many progressive steps towards a cleaner, greener industry. “Here are some trends I have noticed in recent years: plumb bows, multi-hulls, and solar panels. Along with those visual trends are displacement speeds, passive stability, hybrid propulsion. These all reflect steps toward sustainability, and they all have impacts on buyer intangibles. Gemma One is only an evolutionary step in the grand scheme of things.
“Our goal was to actually achieve more conventional styling along with the elements that make the vessel state-of-art like the large wind turbine, efficiency and stability of a multi-hull, and utter absence of diesels. Usable deck space, a big garage, and a manageable in-marina beam were practical function-over-form matters we felt strongly about. Others could likely best our take on aesthetic integration of the turbine with alternate functionality in mind.”
With the inevitability of advancement in both the technology itself and the - perhaps more traditionally attractive - aesthetic evolution of the concept, another question we posed to Schlinkmann was in regards to costs. The environmental impacts seen with the Gemma Series are, of course, attractive and important in terms of the ever-increasing significance of environmental issues but, as is often the case, if the costs are too high, then many will choose to go down the more traditional route. Schlinkmann says this will not be a problem: “Amazingly, the trade-offs are quite valuable. You may be shocked to know our budget for Gemma One is not unlike a similarly accommodated conventional vessel. The batteries add over $1,000,000, but that’s not very significant on a vessel this size.”
With the project still awaiting a formal introduction to the industry, Schlinkmann told us that already the Gemma Series is attracting daily interest, predominantly from European clients. This level of interest is perhaps indicative that this is indeed the first step in the right direction to an increasingly environmentally conscious superyacht industry.