Italian Marine Microgrids Technology Demonstrator Signs Agreement

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An Italian University and private partners recently signed a cooperation agreement to develop innovative technologies for electric marine microgrids and construct a technology demonstrator to test new solutions.

marine microgrids

Long Beach, California offers a US example of a port pursuing electrification and microgrids. Photo by Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock.com

The University of Trieste’s Digital Energy Transformation and Electrification Facility (ETEF) will work in collaboration with Fincantieri, Seastema and Wärtsilä, with co-financing from the Italy General Secretariat of Defense.

In a drive to reduce emissions, the maritime industry is moving towards electrification, enabled by developments in power electronics, distribution systems, fuel cells, and energy storage systems. ETEF will test new concepts for power and related protection systems, and validate intelligent energy management systems.

According to Andrea Lombardi, operations director of Fincantieri, the main challenge of electrifying ships is the development of a power generation system, such as energy storage, large enough to meet the power demands. Fully electric ships, like small passengers ferries navigating between the Norwegian Fjords, do exist today. But systems like fuel cells for larger ships need an additional technological jump.

Direct current marine microgrids

The program will allow the partners to develop and demonstrate modular electrical distribution to generate and control electricity in a microgrid configuration. The partners will also develop and demonstrate modular direct current (DC) power supply systems to manage active, passive and transient loads. This will be carried out with customers and suppliers, including fuel cell and battery applications.

“A new DC grid can be the future grid on ships…the new concept will be tested, giving evidence of the applicability,” Lombardi told Microgrid Knowledge. “Opening the path to new power solutions will reduce emissions and pollution.”

Related control systems will also be developed, and integration time and risks will be reduced by pre-testing equipment before installation aboard ships.

The project will last five years, allowing the partners to gain additional knowledge and real data from field testing on DC powered systems, amongst other technologies for marine microgrids.

“It will be applied to our future projects for more innovative and green ships, but for land applications as well,” Lombardi said.

Fincantieri is an Italian shipbuilder based in Trieste; Seastema is a supplier of marine automation technologies; and Wärtsilä is Finnish solutions provider for the marine and energy markets.

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