mix of energy

New concepts for powering electric vessels

Asbjørn Halsebakke

Those of us in the marine industry don’t know what will develop in the future – but we can be sure, it will involve change! The future looks highly interesting, with major challenges to unravel. The energy mix on board is likely to be a fascinating mosaic. Our vessels have to be ready, and flexibility will be key.

Not so long ago, electric cars seemed a far-off possibility. Now they are a successful contribution to the market, and more and more people enjoy their benefits. In the same way, electrification of marine vessels is a fairly new concept today – but the benefits are substantial, and future payoffs will be great.

DC is the distribution system of the future

The conventional power solution is AC – a well-known system with well-known suppliers who have many years’ experience. However, the drawbacks are also well known:

  • Several transformers are needed for electric propulsion
  • Bigger systems struggle with a high short-circuit current, which sometimes forces the system to use medium voltage
  • Efficiency is low
  • Not easily adaptable to new energy sources

We advocate moving away from AC to DC solutions. An all-DC power distribution system cuts out costly conversions from DC to AC and vice versa.

Our DC concept consists of:

  • Several DC-Hubs linked together to handle tens of megawatts of power while still at low voltage – never any need for medium voltage
  • Electronic Bus Links (EBLs) that cut and isolate any possible fault between DC-Hubs or along cables without disturbing the rest of the system
  • Electronic DC Breakers (EDCBs) that cut and isolate any possible fault in modules while continuing the operation of all other modules

Our DC system is exceptionally safe, redundant and efficient. It keeps one propulsion line running at all times and ensures any critical faults are contained and disconnected from the rest of the grid within 10 microseconds. It also reduces fuel consumption, ensures more overall power in the grid and allows great installation flexibility.

Can we really control DC safely?

Absolutely.

Our solutions come with highly effective built-in safety measures so that your vessel is even safer while you reap the great benefits of an all-DC power distribution system.

Our EBLs and EDCBs provide ultra-rapid fault detection AND ultra-rapid disconnection. Both detection and disconnect occur within 10 microseconds. 10 microseconds! This speed cannot be matched by fuses or standard breakers. The system has been tested conclusively at our facilities and live on vessels with it installed.

We can distribute DC power safely and efficiently in any vessel.

How is this system future-flexible?

The entire system is very flexible, with configurations designed to suit your vessel’s particular needs. Any energy source and any power consumer can be attached to the DC-Hub.

Several DC-Hubs can be connected in a ring configuration to allow more possibilities for distributing energy, using batteries, reducing the number of running generators needed, and substantially lowering maintenance needs.

In addition, the system is not dependent on any one fuel source. It can handle batteries, new fuels, fuel cells, or whatever other fuel sources the future may bring.

Permanent magnet machines

We also provide drives and power generators in addition to DC-Hubs. Our permanent magnet (PM) machines are simple, significantly higher in efficiency than conventional machines and highly reliable. And they need far less maintenance. Especially in low-speed applications, our PM machines are substantially smaller. All this means greatly enhanced drive train dynamics.

These are well-tested solutions operating in vessels on the seas today. We have delivered more than 1,300 drives – # 1,400 is on the shop floor at this moment – and over 100 PM machines to the marine industry.

Are you ready for the future?

Electrifying large-scale marine projects come with big challenges. Design, installation and initial regulations – as well as changing regulations over a vessel’s lifetime – must all be considered.

Feel free to get in touch with me to discuss any questions you may have about DC-Hubs, DC distribution, drives or permanent magnet machines. Our electrical power distribution system, power drives and power generators offer the flexibility the future is going to require.

About the author

Asbjørn Halsebakke
Manager, Technical Solutions, Marine Business
at Yaskawa Environmental Energy / The Switch, Finland


Experienced Technical Director for Marine with a demonstrated history of working in theelectrical and electronic manufacturing industry.Skilled inPower Electronics,ElectricalWiring, Management, Transformer, Continuous Improvement, and Research andDevelopment (R&D).Strong sales professional with a Master of Science (M.Sc.) focused inPower Electronics from Høgskolen i Narvik (HiN).