The need for a plan B in case of a power outage on a drilling rig or vessel can be met with a cheaper, more durable and environmentally friendly alternative to batteries. Innovation Fund Denmark is investing DKK eight million in a project that will test a promising flywheel system for energy storage.
In conjunction with Maersk Drilling and Aalborg University, the new technology company WattsUp Power will test a replacement for the large batteries that today make up the emergency system if the normal generators go down.
The new technology stores energy by letting a flywheel rotate in a vacuum. Energy is stored by acceleration of the rotating flywheel and it can quickly be released again by deceleration of the wheel when there is a need for emergency power.
WattsUp Power has designed a patented solution that is cheaper and more durable than the equivalent traditional battery. The challenge in this project is to further develop the technology for a commercial solution that meets the stringent requirements for performance and safety at sea.
– Our goal is to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent and demonstrate that we can deliver the new type of energy storage for demanding maritime operations. We’re starting by focusing on drilling rigs and large vessels where the fuel savings will be greatest because they are the biggest consumers. But in the future the market may be everything from leisure boats and yachts to ferries and cruise ships, says Martin Speiermann, director and founder of WattsUp Power in Hvidovre.
Maersk Drilling handles drilling jobs for oil companies worldwide, and the company is contributing to this project with important knowledge about the industry’s technical and legal requirements for electrical installations. In addition, Maersk Drilling’s fleet of drilling rigs and ships will be used for actual tests.
For researchers at Aalborg University the floating power grids are exciting examples of microgrids:
– A microgrid is a system of custom technologies that together create the necessary electricity close to the place where it will be used. Drilling rigs and vessels by their very nature are not connected to the central power grid so they have to create their own electricity by having large power generators on board. Additionally, their microgrid must have an emergency solution, which is the focus of the project, explains Professor Josep M. Guerrero, head of Aalborg University’s microgrid research program.
He and his colleagues have developed and deployed microgrids in a number of other projects around the world. The technologies were originally designed for places where the central electricity networks either do not reach or are plagued by many outages. This applies for example to islands, rural areas and undeveloped regions. The researchers expect that the new microgrid project will strengthen Denmark’s position in the field thanks to its strong ties to industry.
The Project is receiving support from the Danish Maritime Fund.