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ABB’s Onboard Microgrid Helps Smaller Vessels Optimize Fuel Efficiency

Finland-based global power-grid company ABB recently introduced an Onboard Microgrid for smaller marine vessels based on the principles of its award-winning power distribution system Onboard DC Grid. The company says it has the proven ability to enable up to 20 percent energy efficiency in larger vessels.

With the launch of the new compact-size solution, ABB says it is making similar efficiencies achievable for smaller, lower-power vessels operating over short distances. Onboard Microgrid can be used for vessels running on batteries, fuel cells, or as fuel cell/battery hybrids.

Similar to Onboard DC (direct current) Grid, Onboard Microgrid allows for the flexibility to draw on multiple energy sources and variable speed drives to optimize operating efficiency and, as a result, cut emissions. Onboard Microgrid connects all DC links and distributes the power through one main DC circuit, providing significant power savings and optimizing the vessel’s propulsion.

In addition, Onboard Microgrid reduces the footprint and weight of the electrical equipment on board by eliminating the need for bulky transformers and main switchboards. That leaves more space on the vessels and provides greater flexibility in the positioning of systems on board.

The first Onboard Microgrid installation has already been given the go-ahead in an extensive hybrid conversion for the San Cristoforo, a 386-ton passenger and car ferry sailing in Lake Maggiore in Italy and operated by Gestione Navigazione Laghi. The compact system will enable the ferry to make the best use of available power by pooling hotel and propulsion power sources via a DC-link. With that savings, generator sets or batteries can be deployed based on user needs, in either diesel, hybrid or electric modes.

“Onboard Microgrid addresses a specific segment of the market, with smaller vessels playing an important role in shipping’s electric, digital and connected future,” said Juha Koskela, managing director, ABB Marine & Ports. “Bringing Onboard Microgrid to market shows how closely ABB has been listening to owners in the inland waterways vessel, ferry, workboat, tugboat and yacht markets seeking to benefit from hybrid propulsion.”

The complete Onboard Microgrid solution includes a programmable controller to implement ABB’s Power Management System (PMS) and generator start-up, propulsion speed control, generator overload protection, control and supervision of operating modes, battery load control and signal handling.

ABB has four customer-focused, globally leading businesses: electrification, industrial automation, motion, and robotics & discrete automation. Its products are supported by its common ABB Ability digital platform. ABB’s power grids business will be divested to Hitachi in 2020. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 147,000 employees.

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