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Photovoltaics for inland shipping vessels

Photovoltaics for inland shipping vessels

Dutch researchers have looked at how PV systems could be used to power bulk vessels for inland shipping. They found that 7.18% and 5.78% of the energy demand of container ships and bulk vessels can be respectively supplied by solar panels.

Researchers from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have looked at how vehicle-integrated photovoltaics (VIPV) could be applied in inland shipping fleets. They have developed a methodology to predict power production from vessel-integrated PV systems.

“Vessel-integrated solar is already commercially viable,” the research’s corresponding author, Hesan Ziar, told pv magazine. “A few companies are already trying to integrate PV modules onto the hold of the barges. According to our simulation, based on real characteristics and movement data of the Dutch inland shipping fleet, the specific annual PV energy yield for a container vessel is 857 Wh per Wp, and for a bulk vessel, is 843 Wh per Wp. These numbers are comparable with a rooftop PV system in the Netherlands which is around 950 Wh per Wp.”

Using a MATLAB-based simulation framework, the scientists developed a way to simulate the PV power production of vehicle-integrated PV systems in vessels.

There are a couple of advantages of general cargo vessels that make them suitable for the implementation of PV modules. These ships have little equipment installed on top of their deck and have a relatively large surface area that is only used to store goods, the hold, which can be smartly integrated with PV modules. Above this hold, PV modules can be integrated,” Ziar explained. “Since electric vessels have batteries on board, one can envision a fleet of urban vessels as a fleet of small PV power plants that supply power to the electrical grid whenever needed. Decentralized energy production will also lower power losses due to less transmission.”

The Dutch group tested the simulation methodology on a small vessel relying on a 48 V/800 Ah battery system, a 22 kW electrical motor, and a 360 MW half-cut PERC module provided by Chinese manufacturer Longi.

“The module was installed on a structure that enabled various tilts,” the scientists explained. “The mast of the vessel has been lowered during the entire experiment, to prevent shadows on the PV module. The PV module is connected to an EPsolar Tracer 415BN 12/24V 40A charger controller, which uses maximum power point tracking (MPPT).”

They validated the model during two weeks of testing and found that the proposed methodology overestimated the PV power by 4%, with a 95% confidence interval between 0.87 and 1.05.

“Our results showed that 7.18% and 5.78% of the energy demand of container and bulk vessels respectively can be supplied by implementing PV modules on general cargo vessels,” they said.

The research team presented its findings in “Photovoltaic Potential of the Dutch Inland Shipping Fleet: An Experimentally Validated Method to Simulate the Power Series from Vessel Integrated Photovoltaics,” which was recently published in RRL Solar.

As the largest European fleet, the Dutch inland shipping industry aims to be climate neutral and emission-free by 2050,” Ziar said. “To meet this goal, the propulsion of the inland shipping vessels needs to change from diesel-powered to electric-powered.”

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