GE unveils powership idea

Sarah Carter
Sarah Carter

24 February 2017

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, says Andy McKeran, Marine Executive, GE's Marine Solutions.

"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 offer a much-needed alternative solution to this global issue," he points out.

Of course, the use of ships as floating business operations is nothing new—giant cruise liners can host thousands of guests in luxury for weeks, offshore oil vessels provide both floating accommodation and drilling plants in rough seas all year round; the powership is another example of what ships can achieve today.

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, 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.