- Operations - Italy powers on with hydrogen infrastructure 

By Dario Schiavo

Italy powers on with hydrogen infrastructure 

Italian superyacht stakeholders continue to lead the charge in the energy transition with new hydrogen-refuelling infrastructure…

In Italy, the world’s first hydrogen infrastructure for recreational yachting is set to launch. With a €100 million investment, independent renewable energy development platform NatPower H leads the project, with sustainable design by Zaha Hadid Architects.

The programme involves 25 Italian marinas and ports, including Venice, Naples, Genoa and Trieste, commencing by summer 2024. The project aims to expand internationally beyond the Mediterranean Sea, targeting countries such as Spain, Greece and France, and the coasts of North Africa, with a goal of establishing 100 fuel stations by 2030.

“On the back of a renewable project pipeline that already exceeds 23GW, we decided to create NatPower H – the first global operator for the production, storage and distribution of green hydrogen – to build the world’s first hydrogen refuelling infrastructure for recreational boating,” states Fabrizio Zago, Group CEO NatPower.

Fabrizio Zago, NatPower Group CEO 

“We believe hydrogen to be one of the most efficient solutions capable of driving the energy transition of the entire recreational boating and yachting industry. Specifically, the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier through fuel cells and electric motors is proving to be one of the most promising options, offering excellent performance while respecting the environment.”

Through this project, NatPower H aims to create sustainable energy hubs in major Italian marinas, facilitating the development and use of hydrogen-powered boats. Partnering with Zaha Hadid Architects, the initiative strives to respond to growing demand and place eco-friendly facilities strategically along the Mediterranean coast, respecting each location’s cultural heritage.

“Zaha Hadid Architects’ hydrogen refuel boating stations will be built with unreinforced low-energy digital concrete,” explains Filippo Innocenti, Director of Zaha Hadid Architects. “With structural strength arising from geometry rather than engineered materials, we found a connection between the established past of ancient construction techniques and advanced sustainable, circular technologies.” This reflects NatPower-H’s dedication to an ecologically responsible future, he says.

The use of local materials such as sand and soil, along with low-carbon concrete, not only reduces the carbon footprint but also facilitates the creation of organic forms that blend seamlessly with the environment, celebrating the beauty and diversity of the landscape.

By employing cutting-edge methods for automated material placement, the stations feature fully recyclable, unreinforced, dry-assembled masonry. This approach eliminates the necessity for carpentry during construction. Such innovations establish a new benchmark for waste reduction as well as enhancing material efficiency.

As the Italian shipbuilding industry ranks first in the world in terms of the number of boats built, Andrea Minerdo, CEO NatPower H, confirms that the company’s ultimate aim is to facilitate the energy transition of this crucial market by promoting the use of hydrogen-powered yachts. “Although the project has only just been launched, we already have a pipeline of 25 agreements with Italian marinas and ports, allowing us to start developing a global network of widespread hydrogen fuel stations,” he adds.

Andrea Minerdo, NatPower H CEO 

Simultaneously, NatPower H has secured the official technical sponsorship of Bluegame, Sanlorenzo Group’s brand in America’s Cup 2024. Scheduled to take place in Barcelona from August to October this year, the protocol for the event requires each challenging team to build and operate hydrogen-powered foil chase boats. These boats must have a minimum length of 10 metres, reach a speed of 50 knots and have a range of 180 miles.

Bluegame itself has entered into an innovative agreement to design and build hydrogen-powered chase boats with two of the six teams that will participate 37th edition of the America’s Cup.

In its capacity as the technical sponsor of Bluegame, NatPower H will provide support to both the New York Club American Magic (US) team and the Orient Express (FR) team. This support includes the provision of green hydrogen and the implementation of safe refuelling procedures for the two chase boats during the testing and preparation phases of the competition.

The partnership with Bluegame is part of a broader programme in which NatPower H is also engaged in discussions with the Baglietto shipyard, further demonstrating the feasibility of widespread hydrogen refuelling for the expanding sustainable recreational boating market.

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