Hybrid Energy System Integrates Solar Power and Batteries on Bulker

hybrid energy system incorporates solar power and batteries to improve performance and reduce emissions
Paolo Topic was fitted with the solar panels and hybrid energy management system (Marfin)

Published Dec 21, 2021 3:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

As shipowners continue to search for solutions to improve the energy efficiency of their vessels, the technology group at Wartsila has completed the installation and commissioning of a unique hybrid system that integrates solar panels to create a technologically advanced bulker. The system combines and integrates the power from multiple sources to optimize consumption and lower the vessel’s emissions.

The solar panel installation, which is believed to be the first aboard a bulker, was carried out on the Paolo Topic, a 34,900 gross ton bulker built in 2016 in Japan. Managed by Marfin Management, the 656-foot long vessel was outfitted with the PV panels working with solar panel specialist Solbain. Other segments of the shipping industry have also been testing the use of solar panels, including outfitting on a Dutch inland cargo vessel, and Royal Caribbean International has installed solar panels on some of its newer cruise ships.

Marfin said that special attention was devoted to fitting the solar panels on the Paolo Topic to ensure that they would not create constraints for the loading and unloading of the vessel. A special removable structure was developed and the panels were fitted on the top of the hatches.

After the initial tests on the solar production, the second phase involved work with Wartsila on the hybridization of the three Daihatsu main diesel gensets that generate 650 kVA. The gensets had been the only source of electric power on the ship but it is now being integrated with the solar power and batteries that deliver auxiliary power to the grid. 


Solar panels fitted on the hatches on the bulker (Marfin)


“This is an extremely exciting development that will lead the way to a more sustainable future,” said Alex Albertini, CEO of Marfin Management. “We will be able to provide our customers and partners with the most advanced vessel performance and environmental quality, and it is without compromising operational effectiveness or flexibility.”

The integrated Wartsila HY Module solution, which is in a container, was placed on the ship’s deck to save space and was installed without the need for dry-docking. The HY module combines and integrates the energy storage system and additional energy sources, including solar power. Wärtsilä’s Energy Management System (EMS) has overall control of the engines, batteries, power distribution to deliver auxiliary power and optimize the onboard power production, consumption, and management.

“This installation represents a truly significant breakthrough in enabling the bulker fleet to increase both its economic competitiveness and environmental performance,” says Giulio Tirelli, Director, Business Development, Wartsila Marine Power.

According to Wartsila, when coupled with other sources of energy such as PV panels the benefits are enhanced. The system addresses the marine sector’s challenges to lower operating costs while simultaneously reducing environmental impact. The solution achieves this through significant reductions in fuel consumption and maintenance needs while offering cleaner, safer, and more efficient operations. It also contributes to the vessel’s compliance with the industry’s Energy Efficiency Existing Ship (EEXI) and Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) indexes.

System was placed in a container on deck not to take up deck space (Marfin)