Making a connection

07 Apr 2014
Power unit: Schneider Electric's ShoreBoX is in operation at the Port of Los Angeles

Power unit: Schneider Electric's ShoreBoX is in operation at the Port of Los Angeles

There's still a place for shore side power solutions, as Anne-Marie Causer finds out

Shore side power is recognised as an important way forward to save costs and emissions for ports and shippers, but the challenge is getting the technology adopted on a global scale.

Schneider Electric, well known for its energy management systems, has taken up the challenge in a novel way.

The France-headquartered company is working closely with Cavotec, a power supply solution expert, and BMT Isis, part of the BMT Group, which provides independent safety, environmental support and risk management services, to get the message out there.

Although not an exclusive arrangement, the three companies use their strong relationships with each other to provide ports with a holistic solution, including supply and installation of the technology, project support and advice on getting a proper return on investment and delivering the environmental benefits that everyone wants to see.

By working with Cavotec, Schneider Electric can provide the shore side power technology and Cavotec can lend its expertise in ship and shore conversion, standardisation of plugs and sockets and cable dispensing systems.

BMT Isis meanwhile can help ports implement a project plan to ensure that installation runs smoothly and safely, achieving a quick return on investment.

It’s a sensible approach because the way to get the technology adopted will be as much driven by the “commercial market” as it will by regulation, in Schneider Electric’s own words.

As Lee Rhodes, senior consultant at BMT Isis, says: “There are the insurance risks, operational procedures and the environmental constraints of shore side power to consider. But as long as this is done properly clever solutions and justifying why they need to be used can be of huge cost benefit.”

 

One rule

There is a worldwide standard for shore power - Standard EC/ISO/IEEE 80005-1 High-voltage Shore Connection (HVSC) - which is there to standardise the technology meaning that ports in the US can use the same system as Denmark.

But the trouble is that there are plenty of issues to tackle before shore side power can be adopted on a much more global scale.

Firstly, there is the liquefied natural gas versus shore side power debate: many argue that the long term use of LNG may negate the need for shore side power.

But Schneider Electric says that the use of LNG as an alternative marine fuel is complimentary with shore side power in both the short and long term.

It says that shore side power is a quicker and cheaper short term solution to allow shippers to achieve emissions targets – particularly those related to emission control areas.

It also believes there will always be a market for shore side power in residential port cities where space saving and safety constraints are paramount. And LNG ships will still need to use power when at berth.

 

Age concern

The next issue is that while there is a standardise solution for ports, older ships may not be able to cope with the voltage needed to plug into shore side power.

Frequency conversion is also a problem. For example, the US uses a 60hz grid, while the EU uses a 50hz grid. Most ships are 60hz so a conversion process needs to be put in place in European ports by way of a uninterruptible power supply system.

As John Cooper, chairman, Cavotec Hong Kong, says: “With shore side connection every port represents a new challenge. We specialise in the connections that run between a ship and terminal and come up with a bespoke solution. We will always try and match what the customers want.”

And this is why Schneider Electric is working closely with Cavotec. By 2015, 500 ships will be equipped with Cavotec’s Alternative Marine Power solution, from ferries through to container ships.

Cavotec also has a wealth of experience with the ports of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Los Angeles, equipping them to cater for shore side power. It also has proven experience of working with both medium and low voltage ships using step down transformers to solve frequency conversion problems.

 

Chicken and egg

Taking the UK as an example, the big problems are ports not having the space to install shore side power, or the capacity to provide the technology and each country has its own trials and tribulations.

Unless regulation is in place, it’s the same old chicken and egg story – ports are waiting for shipping demands and ships are waiting for port infrastructure to be in place before adopting and using new technology.

So much rests with the new European Directive on the Deployment of Alternative Fuel Infrastructures, which specifically mentions both shore side power and is set to affect all ports in Europe. It’s expected to be validated in April 2014 and will largely colour the market for this technology.

Schneider Electric is pushing ahead in pursuit of the benefits of shore side power to keep one step ahead of any new regulation.

Its claims that its ShoreBoX shore side power system will appeal to a wider market because it is portable and modular meaning that it’s well suited to urban ports and those with limited space.

The system is the result of heavy R&D investment over the last few years and Schneider Electric estimates that investing in the new technology could see clients break even at the three year point based on a case study it conducted in France.

ShoreBoX uses a Static Grid Frequency Conversion system. It can be installed and used for cruise ships (12-15 MVA), containerships (1-8 MVA), tankers (2-9 MVA) and even smaller commercial vessels such as tugs.

 

Test drive

At one of its R&D facilities in Grenoble, the ShoreBoX prototype, which is 45 tonnes/14.5m/3 MVA, approximately the size of a container, has been tested at the medium supply voltage of 6.6KV simulating a real life port context.

ShoreBoX has also been trialled in a real port environment in Morocco and there are two systems bound for Riga in May which will be used to power containerships.

Ports should be attracted to the fact that it can be sized to requirements – buy what you need now and get more later. This doesn’t waste power and is in itself a much greener ethos.

Traditionally these systems have had to be designed, then built, then installed as separate processes. But the ‘plug n’ play’ ShoreBoX is already pre-designed. This cuts down the lead time of each order ensuring delivery in under ten months.

There is also the option to lease a ShoreBoX which ensures payback from year one.

 

Ship side

Schneider Electric doesn’t just supply the shore side system. It has the capability to convert ships for shore power for between €200,000 and €500,000 with Cavotec’s support. Newbuilds can have shore side power requirements factored in to the build cost.

It’s also helping ports to develop biomass, solar and renewable energy options, which it says will ultimately allow ports to sell back surplus power generated back to the grid - unless you’re in the US or China.

The Port of LA uses shore side power helped by the introduction of the new OGV Fuel Regulation and Northern American Emission Control Area requirements. The California Air Resources Board says that 80% of the power used by berthed ships will have to come from shore side electricity by 2020.

So it stands to reason that similar shore side power systems could feasibly be installed globally to service the US trade routes, especially as tighter SOx and NOx limits come into force over the next few years.

Market forces, such as the EU Directive which gives a two hour limit at berth for ships before switching to shore side power or low sulphur fuel could also help drive demand for adoption of shore side power.

Another is the availability of infrastructure development funding under the European Commission’s TEN-T – Connecting Europe Facility. Money is available for both research into shore side power (50%) and deployment (20%) for ports and terminals.

Looking ahead, international standards are in place and the technology is there for the uptake so the outlook looks positive. It is now just up to the ports and ships to decide who implements the shore connection first.

Jack Hawkings, segment manager marine UK, Schneider Electric, says: “This is an opportunity for a port to be seen to be fulfilling its green objectives. The attitude of ports and shipping companies just needs to be more joined up.”

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