The Foundation⁰ Power Hub: A sustainable energy source for the future

By Callum Booth
Callum Booth

Foundation⁰ has a vision of a sustainable future, one where our relationship with energy production and usage is completely overhauled.

While the organisation’s main research focus is currently on the maritime industry, the advances it makes around clean and sustainable power stretch far beyond the sailing sector.

And one such example of this breadth of scope? The Foundation⁰ Power Hub.

What is the Foundation⁰ Power Hub?

In simple terms, the Foundation⁰ Power Hub is a remodelled freight container that uses renewable energy to provide power, heating and cooling functionality, water management, and more.

The unit is designed in partnership with Kroes Marine Projects and set to be launched later this year. The Foundation⁰ Power Hub has three main purposes: to provide renewable energy to Sail Team BCN, to act as a testing and validation platform for new developments, and to show the public what’s possible with sustainable technology.

To find out more about this exciting new project, let’s take a few steps back.

A graphic of the Power hub (front) and the BCN base camp

Simple beginnings

The catalyst behind the Power Hub’s creation is connected to Foundation⁰’s recent sponsorship of Sail Team BCN. This is a group that will be competing in the Women’s and Youth divisions of the 37th America’s Cup later in 2024.

This partnership isn’t solely about competing in the race though, it has loftier aims: to drive sailing into a more sustainable and equitable place — and the Foundation⁰ Power Hub is a central aspect to this.

While the origins of the unit lie with this partnership and providing Sail Team BCN with a sustainable way to power their race base, the thinking behind the Power Hub goes far deeper.

The benefits of building a power hub

As aforementioned, the Power Hub has a multitude of purposes.

The first, referenced above, is to support Sail Team BCN in becoming a figure at the forefront of sustainable sailing and ensure they can be as successful as possible during the race. This unit will allow everyone on the team to be comfortable during the America’s Cup, providing them with the environment and access to necessities they need to thrive and succeed.

The second reason for the Foundation⁰ Power Hub’s creation is it provides a testing ground for the innovations the organisation has made in recent years.

Much of the research and development Foundation⁰ has undertaken revolves around the Project Zero vessel, a sailboat that will operate without fossil fuels. Creating something completely new like this means a huge amount of its core systems have either been custom designed or combined in ways that have never been done before. This means there are a lot of unknowns.

For sailing yachts, it’s vital the technology and systems — and the interaction between them — are as mature as possible. When you are out at sea, there is no space for failure. It is borderline impossible to install a new component or provide a quick fix when you are hundreds of miles away from land.

As Project Zero will be a world first, and involves particularly novel technology, it is even more important that its core components are stress tested and put through their paces in a controlled environment — and that’s what the Foundation⁰ Power Hub provides.

In many ways, this will be undertaking a similar task to the systems on the boat itself: providing electricity, cooling, and water.

Finally, the third reason for the unit’s creation is to show the public what can be achieved sustainability-wise with modern technology. Something like the Foundation⁰ Power Hub has the potential to capture people’s imaginations, to show them what’s possible to achieve with cleanly generated power.

And that’s the exciting thing: the hub has wide-reaching implications that could benefit individuals from all walks of life. Once the Foundation⁰ Power Hub has been thoroughly examined, this model can be used in energy systems across all sorts of industries and places — not just the maritime sector. Getting the Foundation⁰ Power Hub off the ground Once the decision to build the Power Hub had been made, the Foundation⁰ team continued their close collaboration with Kroes Marine Projects to explore how it could be done.

With the first goal being how Sail Team BCN’s race base could be sustainably powered and its members kept comfortable, the team came up with a list of what the unit was required to do.

Following that, the team put together a list of the systems the Power Hub had to include:

  • Electrical energy harvesting
  • Electrical energy storage
  • Heat harvesting and retention
  • Cooling
  • Water
A glimpse into the inner workings of the Foundation⁰ Power Hub

Once these goals were settled on, there was another important point to face: redundancy.

While the team are using the Foundation⁰ Power Hub to test out their technological advancements, this plays second fiddle to the unit working correctly and providing Sail Team BCN with all their power and cooling needs.

This means every system needs a backup, so that if one element fails or does not work as well as hoped, there is always a secondary solution available.

Once this had been decided, another question needed answering: what will house the components that make up the Foundation⁰ Power Hub?

The power of portability

It didn’t take long at all for Foundation⁰ and Kroes Marine Projects to settle on using freight containers for the unit, as it became clear quickly how elegant this solution was.

Foundation⁰ is primarily based in the Netherlands, with many of its partners, including Kroes Marine Projects, spread across the country. This means that when the Power Hub is being designed and tested, it will happen in the Netherlands. Only after this will it be shipped to Barcelona for Sail Team BCN.

To put it another way, the Power Hub needs to be shifted around — and shipping containers enable this sort of portability. They fit on regular trucks, have a defined size, and there’s an entire industry dedicated to their transportation.

This is especially useful when one considers the future of the Foundation⁰ Power Hub. While it’s initial use will be in the maritime environment of the America’s Cup, there’s huge potential for the system to be used in a variety of places for a number of different purposes, so being able to easily transport the units is a huge boon.

With the housing of the Foundation⁰ Power Hub decided and settled, the next step was filling it with the appropriate technology to ensure it can function exactly as Sail Team BCN requires. Diving into the systems As mentioned earlier, the team split the required systems into several broad categories that will deliver everything Sail Team BCN needs for its race base.

Below, we have an overview of what those systems comprise of and how they operate.

Electrical energy harvesting

The roof of the Sail Team BCN’s race base will be covered in 200m2 of photovoltaic panels to harvest electrical energy from solar energy. This will be used to power anything Sail Team BCN requires, whether that’s charging phones, using lighting, or operating appliances.

Electrical energy storage

The team is installing a battery system of approximately 210 kilowatt hours at 48 volts. This is required as a buffer so the hub can deliver enough power throughout the day and night — and ensure that all the other systems are able to run, no matter where the sun is or what the cloud coverage is like.

Alongside this, the team are ensuring the Foundation⁰ Power Hub can also pull energy from the grid if required. This isn’t expected to be needed, but while the unit is being stress tested and put in new environments, it’s important to ensure there’s a backup system for power.

Heat harvesting and retention

Another way of drawing energy into the system is by harvesting heat. This will be achieved by using vacuum tube systems, which collect thermal energy from the sun. Around 17m2 worth of this tube system will be situated on the roof of the Power Hub itself.

Once collected, this heat will then be stored in a phase changing material (PCM). This is a material that literally changes phases, effectively melting when charging and freezing when discharging. This phases can be instigated when thermal either needs to be stored or used.

In this instance, it goes from a solid to liquid when charging in order to store thermal energy that can be used later.

Cooling systems

One reason the team is keen to harvest and retain heat in the Foundation⁰ Power Hub is due to the fact it’s used for the cooling system.

Specifically, a Yazaki absorption cooler will be used. This is a heat pump that runs on thermal energy instead of electricity. This can then be used to cool the liquid that is then run through the air conditioning system.

There’s also a backup compressor unit in the Foundation⁰ Power Hub to make sure that the team can stay cool in the hot Spanish sun.

Water systems

The Foundation⁰ Power Hub also includes several systems for managing water. The first of these is a desalinator, something that will turn seawater into clean water. This will be used for the kitchen, sanitary areas, and for washing the boats.

Unfortunately, this water is non-potable, as although the filtration system could feasibly deliver liquid of that quality, it’d require constant lab testing in order to ensure it was safe for consumption.

In this instance, the biggest use of water on the site will be the aforementioned task of washing down the boats. This water — as well as the other technical water used across the site — will be collected and placed into a Konkaav unit. This filtration system turns grey water back into technical water, which Sail Team BCN can then use again.

This will mean very little liquid will be wasted, whether it’s people using it in the kitchen or washing boats.

Confronting data collection

While there are bound to be trials and tribulations throughout the creation of the Foundation⁰ Power Hub, one of the biggest goals of the team is working out how to measure and quantify the success of the project.

In other words, if the right things are to be learned from the unit, then it needs to provide data in a useful way.

For example, measuring only the temperature of a single location or unit won’t deliver the insight the team needs. With this data, there won’t be any context for what’s happening with the weather, or if there are people in a space, or how much energy the absorption cooler is consuming.

What the team wants to do instead is track the efficiencies of the components and system overall. This will involve measuring temperature, flows, and energy conversions across the Power Hub, and using that data to optimise its systems going forward.

Following this, the team will use the data collected on the cooling demands placed on the unit and the amount of energy it harvests in order to both validate and improve their modelling efforts for future projects.

Theory into reality — and what comes next

Currently, the Foundation⁰ Power Hub is still having the final touches added to it. The build will be completed in mid-April. Following this, field tests will take place in the Netherlands in May.

Once those are passed, the Foundation⁰ Power Hub will be shipped to Barcelona in June.

When it arrives, the team will set it up and ensure all the systems are connected, before putting it through another series of tests to ensure it operates effectively. This will be complete by July — and means the Foundation⁰ Power Hub will be functional for the start of the 37th America’s Cup in August.

Once the competition is finished, the work doesn’t simply stop. The team will take all the data they can, analyse what worked and what didn’t, and then optimise the system.

Beyond this, there will also be technical improvements made to the Foundation⁰ Power Hub. Some technology — such as the photovoltaic thermal hybrid solar collector panels, which were designed for Project Zero — will be available to be installed.

Fundamentally, this is just the first step for the Foundation⁰ Power Hub. While the unit is still in a broad prototype stage, it’s already set to become a vital cog in Sail Team BCN’s success — but there is so much more to come.

Once learnings have been adapted and interactions between its systems properly analysed, it will become a blueprint for sustainable power in the sailing industry. With Foundation⁰ making all of its designs and plans open source, the Power Hub is free to be adopted and used not just in the maritime industry, but across the world as a whole.

That’s the joy of broad horizons and research with few borders: you never know where that technology may lead you in the future. And in this case? That could be not only showing the globe what can be done with sustainable energy, but helping it access it too.


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