A £4.6m innovation project, led by renewable electrification specialists AceOn, to develop battery and hydrogen technology to power the marine vessels used for servicing offshore wind turbines, has been given the green light for Government funding as the UK takes action to make the maritime industry cleaner.
The RESTORE project will seek to replace the fossil-fuelled power and propulsion systems of crew transfer vessels (CTVs) with green hydrogen and battery storage-based alternatives. The test vessel for the study will be the Princess Royal Vessel; a CTV catamaran in Blyth, Northumberland, which is used to transport technicians to the EDF offshore wind power plant there.
RESTORE brings together a consortium of pioneering businesses and organisations from across industry and academia including Catapult Offshore Renewable Energy, Engas Global, Liverpool John Moores University, Newcastle University, Taurus Engineering and CAGE. The partners will work collaboratively to develop, test and deploy scalable and cost-effective propulsion and power systems which can be retrofitted to existing vessels.
The scope of the study will include the design of offboard infrastructure to make green hydrogen for the vessel (using renewable resources to power a 50kW electrolyser), the use of both onboard hydrogen and battery storage as alternative propulsion methods, the design of a hybrid hydrogen internal combustion engine for the CTV, and the testing of a combined solution which uses both battery power and the Princess Royal’s existing diesel engines together.
As well as being the project lead, AceOn will be putting its 30+ years of experience in specialist battery design into the development of the CTV’s power units (battery and hydrogen), the battery management systems and the power management of the onshore electrolysers needed to make green hydrogen. AceOn Energy Managing Director Mark Thompson can’t wait to get the project started in April 2023, and sees the potential for green hydrogen and battery storage to make waves in marine applications and much more.
“We have some of the brightest minds and the most innovative companies in the UK working on the delivery of this project which will create exciting new solutions to the problem of how to decarbonise the maritime sector,” Mr Thompson said. “With hydrogen and battery technology together, we can extend the range of the vessel, which is something we haven’t seen demonstrated before because emission reducing technologies for the marine industry are very often limited to onshore/in port solutions.
“As well as reducing those maritime emissions, this project can also help close the loop in the offshore wind industry by zeroing the emissions which were previously created by servicing the turbines. It might seem like a small win, but as we move to an electrified future and more offshore wind plants, it will have a big impact.”
The ground-breaking project is being funded by a grant from the Department of Transport as part of its Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, which was run in September 2022 by Innovate UK.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper welcomed the award, which was one of a number announced across the UK: “Our maritime sector imports 95% of goods into the UK and contributes £116 billion to our economy – more than both aviation and rail combined. With growing the economy one of the Government’s top priorities, we must continue our efforts to ensure the UK remains a pioneer in cutting-edge clean maritime solutions.
“The funding we’re awarding today will help to do just that, bringing emission-free concepts to life and fuelling innovation.”
AceOn, which is based in Telford, Shropshire, has more than 30 years’ experience in the design and manufacture of custom-built battery packs, supporting the development of new battery technologies and products, and the distribution of industrial and consumer batteries to the worldwide market. The energy division provides a training, service and distribution centre to offer a full turnkey solution for residential and commercial battery energy storage systems.
The group has built a reputation as being specialists in solar and battery technology, particularly the development of bespoke, custom-built battery packs. Mr Thompson and AceOn have been selected by the UK Government as one of its Export Champions.