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Aqua superPower Leads the World's First Vessel-to-Grid Demonstration Project

Southampton, UK - 15th May 2024 - In a groundbreaking initiative, Aqua superPower is spearheading the Virtual Bunkering for Electric Vessels (VBEV) demonstration, marking the world's first vessel-to-grid project. This transformative project leverages the success of the previous Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition 2 (CMDC2) feasibility study, showcasing how electric vessel batteries can provide energy storage and flexibility services to harbours, ports, and the grid when the boat is not in use.

The VBEV project will demonstrate the opportunity for bidirectional (V2X)infrastructure to utilise marine batteries to provide energy storage and management services to harbours, ports, and the grid, minimising costly grid upgrades, reducing energy bills, and increasing renewables integration.

Aqua superPower heads a consortium of excellence, bringing together expertise in marine infrastructure, vessel manufacturing, software, and energy. This includes two vessel OEMs with RS Electric and Ingenity, energy company EDF, the University of Plymouth, City College of Plymouth, Research Centre CENEX, and bi-directional software provider Fuuse Ltd. This powerful collaboration ensures a holistic approach to advancing vessel-to-grid capabilities.

As a CMDC4 winner, funded under the UK SHORE programme and delivered through Innovate UK, the VBEV project has the potential to significantly slash carbon emissions on both a system and site level, propelling the maritime industry towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.

The project seeks to leverage the opportunity presented by the electrification of vessels and highlight how electric vessels can be optimally utilised, particularly in the recreational and workboats sectors. The VBEV project demonstrates the value to the vessel owner, the site operator, and energy utilities.

The UK, with a staggering 255,484 recreational/commercial vessels under 12m, is set to transition to zero-emission operations over the next decade. According to British Marine, an additional 10,000 vessels join the fleet annually, presenting a massive electrification opportunity. These vessels, with the potential for electrification, will necessitate port/harbour/marina charging solutions. The VBEV project identifies a unique opportunity for bi-directional charging and virtual bunkering of electricity, not only advancing decarbonisation but also meeting immediate infrastructure and grid demands.

Feasibility shows potential for electric vessels to offset all carbon associated with charging. The 4 weeks demonstrator will illustrate how all key infrastructure, software, vessel, and energy components interact. Two vessels will be connected to bidirectional chargers, showcasing energy sent to the grid and adept energy management behind the meter.

Alex Bamberg, CEO of Aqua superPower, states, "Enhanced energy management will allow sites to better adapt to increasing demands on power from electrification of vessels, potentially reduce the grid connection where capacity is limited or costly and integrate more renewables. We are proud to lead this vital project that demonstrates Aqua superPower’s first-class marine charging expertise and positions the UK as a vessel-to-grid technology pioneer."

"RS Electric Boats is thrilled to participate in the VBEV trials, demonstrating vessel-to-grid technology. We believe this innovation will significantly reduce ownership costs and lower the barriers to zero-emission transition. Importantly, our Pulse 63 will set a precedent as the first production electric boat equipped with V2G capabilities. This milestone not only underscores our commitment to sustainable maritime innovation but also represents a significant leap forward in the electrification of the marine sector," said Jon Partridge, CEO of RS Marine Group.

Dr Will Maden, Co-founder and COO of Fuuse stated. “This project represents a fundamental step in bringing electric boats to the market. The current usage and duty cycles of certain target vessels mean that there are substantial benefits to the operating costs of the vessel and potentially to the local and national electric infrastructure. Fuuse will bring its extensive knowledge of automotive V2X technology to the marine setting, embedding protocols and service processes early in the development phase. This strategic integration aims to optimise efficiency and reliability, transforming how energy is managed and utilised in maritime transport, thereby contributing significantly to sustainability and economic savings in the sector.”

Patrick Dupeyrat, R&D Director, EDF UK, states, “Energy flexibility is expected to play a key role in ports/harbours, as the need for electrification grows. EDF is delighted to work alongside partners in this vessel-to-grid demonstration project, providing expertise on flexibility markets and a commercial pathway for V2X for vessel owners. EDF will also assess the opportunity for the integration of renewables at ports/harbours to address grid constraints and outline the role of V2X in port wide microgrids.”

Dr Lee Durndell, Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Plymouth, said: “This project is another important step in the UK's transition to clean maritime technologies. There is clear appetite from both vessel and harbour owners to see the sector grow over the coming years, but technical questions remain that need to be answered. One of those is around battery performance and health and this project will begin addressing that, while aligning with the growing commercial interest in clean maritime and how it can be rolled out more widely."

Greg Payne, Principal Technical Specialist, Cenex said “Cenex is pleased to bring its expertise in V2G to the VBEV project. By evaluating additional marine archetypes with real world duty cycle data, we will help to provide clear direction for the implementation of V2G technology for the marine sector. We will also seek to provide clarity on required standards and their implementation.”

“City College Plymouth is delighted to be involved in this incredible innovative project. To meet the current and future demand for expertise in the Blue (marine) and Green (renewable) sectors of industry, we intend to build an accredited college course based on the Design, Installation and Maintenance of Marine Charging systems. and V2X. This demonstration sits perfectly in between these important agendas concerning the future of our oceans, energy and economy.” said Lance Chatfield MBA MSET, Executive of Technical Innovation at City College Plymouth.  

Capt. Todd Sims, Business Development Director of Ingenity said “As a manufacturer of high-power recreational electric boats and propulsion systems, Ingenity is excited to be apart of this team to demonstrate the benefits of V2X in an impactful and practical setting.  We have customers with boats around the world and look forward to being able to offer this additional benefit of ownership sometime very soon. Adding value to our products is something we continuously strive for, and delivering on V2X functionality is certainly worth the effort.”

The VBEV project introduces software upgrades, communication protocol adoption, and innovative charge controllers into electric vessels. This integration enables seamless communication between batteries and bi-directional chargers, laying the foundation for a vessel-to-grid management platform. This platform empowers optimal charge and discharge scheduling, maximising energy efficiency.

VBEV will test two pivotal scenarios: vessel-to-grid, exporting energy to the grid for flexibility and balancing services, and a behind-the-meter solution for enhanced on-site energy management. These scenarios cater to the diverse needs of ports, harbours, vessel operators, and grid network operators.

With the electric vessel industry on the rise, this initiative promises a scalable future with benefits ranging from improved battery health to reduced operational costs and revenue generation. VBEV will produce the first vessels capable of bi-directional power transfer, set a standard for other vessel manufacturers, develop a vessel-to-grid management platform, provide world leading research and development of a commercial product for customers.

As the pioneer behind the world's first vessel-to-grid initiative, the VBEV project positions the UK at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. Beyond technological innovation, this endeavor opens substantial opportunities for UK supply chains and exports, putting the nation on the global map of maritime leadership.

The VBEV demonstration project is part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition Round 4 (CMDC4), funded by the UK Department for Transport (DfT) and delivered by Innovate UK. CMDC4 is part of the Department’s UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UKSHORE) programme, a £206m initiative focused on developing the technology necessary to decarbonise the UK domestic maritime sector.