A step closer to hybrid power for large ships

19 Feb 2014
Impression of a large cargo ship employing the Aquarius hybrid concept from Eco Marine Power

Impression of a large cargo ship employing the Aquarius hybrid concept from Eco Marine Power

Eco Marine Power (EMP) of Japan says that its rigid sail technology for ships, known as EnergySail, has successfully concluded function testing at the Aquarius Innovation Lab in Osaka, supported by JSMEA (Japan Ship Machinery & Equipment Association).

EnergySail is intended to meet demands for renewable energy onboard ships, and is a rigid structure that can be used to convet both wind and light power into energy. It can be used as a stand-alone device or as part of a larger array of eight or more units.

It has been designed primarily as part of EMP’s Aquarius MRE system, a true hybrid power system for ships, but the company sees a number of individual applications for EnergySail. Among these are as a stand-alone unit on a cable laying vessel, coastal tanker or oceanographic ship, while it could also form the heart of a simplified hybrid power system for a variety of smaller vessels.

Greg Atkinson, EMP director, told The Motorship that the EnergySail concept was quite different from other wind-assistance systems for ships. Rather than just an aerodynamic device, the rigid EnergySail is intended to provide a platform for various renewable energy technologies, including photovoltaic (PV, or ‘solar’) panels and wind power devices. It can be used when a ship is in port or at anchor and can be altered to suit new technologies or different energy requirements. One of its major claimed benefits is that it can be tailored to suit a particular ship type, route, or operational pattern, by changing the number of PV cells or adding additional devices. It has been designed for low maintenance, and to be able to withstand harsh sea conditions. Although sensitive enough to respond to low wind speeds, it can withstand strong gales and sudden gusts. An alternative version is being developed that could be used horizontally rather then vertically.

The lab testing evaluated several features including the ability to stand up to sudden strong wind gusts and the control algorithms for automated operation. The control system is being developed jointly between KEI System (KEI) of Japan and EMP.

The company says that completion of these lab tests is a significant milestone for the project, and paves the way for sea trials which are intended to begin in 2014, in conjunction with a major shipping company. Once the system has proved itself at sea, it will enable the start of commercial production and deployment of the Aquarius MRE System.

“We are extremely pleased with the test results which have confirmed that we made the right design choices regarding the EnergySail and the devices that will be connected to it” said Mr Atkinson. “We have also been encouraged by some very positive feedback that we have received from a number of shipping companies and the increasing interest from companies and organisations around the world in the technologies we are developing”.

MMP’s Aquarius Eco Ship concept includes an EnergySail array to harness solar and wind power to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. EMP regards the Aquarius MRE hybrid power system as being not only kind to the environment but also cost-effective with a potentially attractive return on investment for vessel owners and operators.

The Aquarius MRE concept can, says Mr Atkinson, play an important role in assisting ship owners and operators meet the ECA emission requirements.

The technology combines renewable energy gather by the EnergySail, or solar panels alone, with lithium-ion batteries and electric propulsion motors. Renewable energy when underway can harness the wind power for additional propulsion power while solar energy tops up the batteries, while when in port or at anchor the solar panels and shore power will rapidly recharge the battery banks

Hybrid systems can also be used to provide power for facilities on a ship such as catering equipment, fans and lighting. For example an LED lighting system could be powered in the evenings from energy collected during daylight and stored in the same batteries which provide power to the electric propulsion motors.

Other EMP projects includes investigations into incorporating wind power in ships of less than 500gt, and a number of projects for small solar-powered hybrid passenger vessels, for use as commuter ferries as well as in environmentally sensitive areas like water parks and inland navigations.

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