GE powership concept

23 Feb 2017

 floating power plant built on a ship that can travel to anywhere in the world and provide power to onshore communities

A floating power plant built on a ship that can travel to anywhere in the world and provide power to onshore communities

Multinational marine propulsion major General Electric has been busy refining the oft-discussed, but seldom realised concept of a portable power station built within a ship.

Andy McKeran, Marine Executive, GE’s Marine Solutions,
proposed in a recent GE blog a floating power plant built on a ship that can
travel to anywhere in the world and provide power to onshore communities where
it is needed. When you consider that more than 1 billion people around the
world have no access to power and many more simply lack the required amount,
powerships certainly offer a much-needed alternative solution to this global

Andy suggests that it is an innovative and flexible example
of a microgrid, ideal for areas with poor access to infrastructure. As building
a power grid can take many years and comes at a huge cost, a powership can
provide distributed power generation, helping communities to have access to
essential energy supplies.

However, according to Andy, realising a powership is no easy
task. From financing to project management, there’s a chain of expertise that
is needed to succeed. Needless to say, technology also plays an essential role
in the value chain, and there are several critical considerations.

Compared to conventional shipping vessels, a powership
requires significant engineering expertise to build a stable power plant on the
ship’s platform, and the system must be able to withstand the harsh sea
environment, which can damage equipment over time. Machines need to be
specifically designed to accommodate even the most extreme climates, with
temperatures ranging from -20 to 50 degrees Celsius.

While the very nature of powerships means that they can be
deployed anywhere in the world, different regions have different grid codes to
comply with, so the ships need to be adaptable enough to connect to the grid
and able to “pump” power wherever it is needed.

Power isn’t the only thing that can be devastating when in
short supply. If there’s a shortage of power, it’s likely that essential water
supplies and infrastructure may be lacking or disrupted. Powerships also come
into play here. They can be loaded with desalination plants, providing a supply
of clean, safe drinking water. Their position close to the shore makes them the
ideal short-term solution.

So, if ships are able to provide flexible power and water
solutions to cities, what else could they do? It is clear that the roles of vessels
are expanding. Powerships are becoming lifelines to cities and towns that need
them the most.

This convergence of disciplines requires a joined-up
approach from partners bringing their expertise to successful projects. Using
the strength of the GE Store, GE says it is in a position to connect its
experts from power generation to water desalination technology to grid
connection and marine capability—enabling collaboration on solutions that
provide the added value of being integrated in one organisation.

By Jake Frith

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