Category: Electrification of Vehicles and Buildings
Growing environmental concerns and depleting fossil fuels are forcing us to look at possibility of using non-conventional, renewable energy sources for power generation on board ships with a certain degree of success.
Not much thought has been given to the possibility of using these energy sources for main propulsion to replace fossil fuel usage. Is it really possible to generate sufficient power from sun to propel ships and replace diesel engines? Yes. It is possible to replace diesel engines as prime movers for main propulsion of ships We can have electric propulsion with power drawn from the sun’s energy through photo voltaic cells.
The area available on the deck and the shipside above the waterline can be utilized to generate power from the solar energy. With the presently available technology and a conversion efficiency of almost 50%, with solar cells sprayed on the exposed areas of the ships in the form of paint, the power generated can be as high as 40% of the present day Diesel Engines MCR. It implies that we can achieve about 60 - 70% of the maximum speed using this technology.
Fuel constitutes about 50% of the operational cost of a ship. If we are able to dispense with diesel engines and the associated fuel storage systems, it would be much more economical to run ships than it is today with fossil fuels. We also save on the deadweight and volumetric cargo space giving us more cargo carrying capacity. Also there is a substantial saving on manning costs.
Till now, some progress has been made towards use of solar power on ships. In December 2008, a new solar power system, capable of generating 40 kW, has made its debut on a car carrier Auriga Leader of NYK. In 2010, Turanor PlanetSolar, a 30 m long and 15 m wide catamaran was equipped with 38,000 photovoltaic cells housed in 825 modules with four electric motors and a wave piercing design which provides enough power to propel two drive shafts of the catamaran at about 7 knots. A 13 ton lithium battery stores enough electricity for upto 3 days without direct sunlight.
Until now, solar power systems have been limited to usage for the crews’ onboard living areas, but very soon, we will witness solar power competing and eventually winning over traditional fossil fuel propulsion systems.
CHILUKURI MAHESHWAR– Sr. Training Supdt. - Engg, Anglo Eastern Maritime Academy