ABB launches Onboard Microgrid to help smaller vessels optimise fuel efficiency

Source: press release, 30 May 2019

Onboard Microgrid provides greater flexibility in the positioning of system on board
Onboard Microgrid provides greater flexibility in the positioning of system on board (photo: ABB)

The newly launched Onboard Microgrid is based on the principles of ABB’s award-winning power distribution system Onboard DC Grid™ with the proven ability to enable up to 20% energy efficiency in larger vessels. With the launch of the new compact-size solution, ABB makes 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 Grid™, Onboard Microgrid allows for the flexibility to draw on multiple energy sources and variable speed drives to optimise 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 optimising 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 system on board.

The first Onboard Microgrid installation has already been given the go-ahead in an extensive hybrid conversion for San Cristoforo, a 386-tonne 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, generator sets or batteries can be deployed based on user needs, in either diesel, hybrid or electric modes.

“Onboard Microgrid will allow San Cristoforo to maximise the efficiency benefits of hybrid propulsion,” says Alesandro Aquafredda, General Director, Gestione Navigazione Laghi. “It also allows for better utilisation of space in the engine room and is time-efficient and straightforward to install.”

“Onboard Microgrid addresses a specific segment of the market, with smaller vessels playing an important role in shipping’s electric, digital and connected future,” says 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.