Imabari Shipbuilding to Develop Automated Power Transfer Vessel

power transfer vessel to expand use of offshore wind power generation
Power Ark would transport renewable energy from offshore wind farms to shore power grids (PowerX)

Published Dec 7, 2021 4:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Japan’s Imabari Shipbuilding Company is investing in a Japanese startup company PowerX and will join the efforts to develop a revolutionary power transfer vessel. PowerX first unveiled last summer its designs for an automated trimaran that would shuttle power between offshore generation sites and the power grid to increase the supply and utilization of renewable energy. The company plans to build its prototype by the end of 2025.

One of the challenges for offshore wind farms is the power transfer to shore which is currently done by undersea cables. The goal is to increase the range of location for wind farms going further offshore as well addressing the limitations of cabling.

Imabari entered into a capital and business alliance with PowerX to jointly develop the prototype of the vessel. Imabari is investing nearly $9 million into the company (1 billion yen). The companies aim to co-develop and build a Power ARK prototype ship by the end of 2025, with the participation of third-party companies as necessary. 

PowerX will develop and manufacture the battery storage system and other battery-related systems to be installed on the prototype ship. Imabari Shipbuilding will be responsible for the construction of the vessel. The prototype is a smaller 220 MWh capacity vessel but even at that size, PowerX reports it would transport enough electricity for 209,000 Japanese households in just one trip.

The design calls for a vessel that would be 330-feet long with a beam of nearly 72 feet and 16-foot drafts. The Power Ark 100 would be 2,2200 dwt and able to operate at 7 knots and a maximum speed of 14 knots. The trimaran would be outfitted with autonomous navigation software and sensing equipment as well collision avoidance systems to support autonomous operations. Traveling on electricity the vessel would have a range of up to approximately 185 miles. 

With proof of concept, PowerX envisions larger vessels that would be able to make long-distance international voyages. Powered by sustainable biodiesel and electricity the Power ARK the company says would also be able to undertake long-distance, intercontinental power transmission.

PowerX’s goal is to efficiently distribute renewable energy to regions with high demand leading to greater utilization of clean energy resources.

To complete their vision, PowerX is also working to build a large-scale battery packing facility in Japan. The factory would develop and produce EV fast-charging, grid, and marine batteries. They hope to have an initial production capacity of 1GW by 2024 and will ramp up to 5GW by 2028.