A pioneering research project, led by leading UK battery specialist AceOn, has been awarded a £4.6million grant to help power a green future for the maritime industry and establish the UK as a world leader in marine renewable technologies.
The RESTORE project which gets under way in April, sees AceOn leading a consortium of pioneering businesses and organisations – Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, Engas Global, Liverpool John Moores University, Newcastle University, Taurus Engineering and CAGE.
The Government grant that has been awarded by Innovate UK is to develop ground-breaking ways of converting crew transfer vessels from diesel to battery and hydrogen power. The project will trial a number of ways in which the vessels – used to ferry crew to offshore locations such as windfarms – can be retrofitted with sustainable, green hydrogen and battery technology to remove the need for fossil fuels.
AceOn managing director Mark Thompson said the project brought together a hugely talented team at the cutting edge of innovation who could lead the way in an emerging new market.
The boat being used for the project was based in Blyth, in Northumberland, on the doorstep of a planned new UK gigafactory which would also play an essential part in developing the UK’s battery and electric capacity, he said.
“I can think of no better place to showcase AceOn and our battery expertise, together with the rest of this exciting consortium, than next to the planned 30GW battery plant, which will produce the batteries need to decarbonise the marine sector.
“This is a huge opportunity to show that the UK has the expertise to lead the world in green maritime technology and we are delighted that the Government has backed our consortium to deliver this hugely important work.
“Our project will demonstrate how huge parts of the maritime industry can be decarbonised by removing the need for diesel and fossil fuels and switching to much cleaner and environmentally responsible battery and hydrogen options.
“With hydrogen and battery technology together, we can extend the range of the vessel, which is something we haven’t seen demonstrated before because emission-reducing technologies for the marine industry are very often limited to onshore/in port solutions.
“The project shows that AceOn is working all across the UK to develop green solutions for every aspect of our lives and underlines our message that 2023 truly is the year of the battery.
“As well as reducing those maritime emissions, this project can also help close the loop in the offshore wind industry by zeroing the emissions which were previously created by the vessels.”
RESTORE has been awarded the money from the Department of Transport as part of its Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, which was run in September 2022 by Innovate UK.
The test vessel for the study will be the Princess Royal, a catamaran which is used to transport technicians to the EDF offshore wind power plant in the North Sea.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper welcomed the award, which was one of a number announced across the UK.
“Our maritime sector imports 95% of goods into the UK and contributes £116 billion to our economy – more than both aviation and rail combined.
“With growing the economy one of the Government’s top priorities, we must continue our efforts to ensure the UK remains a pioneer in cutting-edge clean maritime solutions.
“The funding we’re awarding today will help to do just that, bringing emission-free concepts to life and fuelling innovation.”
David Cooper, Regional Partnership Manager at ORE Catapult, added:
“Decarbonising maritime operations presents a significant challenge but also a huge opportunity. The offshore wind industry can lead in this transformation but with current vessels potentially having a service life of decades, retrofit will have to play a role in meeting net zero targets.
“ORE Catapult is delighted to support this consortium of companies, both those with maritime experience and those that have technology and experience from other sectors to support the drive towards decarbonisation. Together with academic partners and an industry steering board we will help to create a blueprint for clean maritime retrofits that can help ensure the UK seizes this opportunity.”
AceOn, which is based in Telford, Shropshire, has more than 30 years’ experience in the design and manufacture of custom-built battery packs, supporting the development of new battery technologies and products, and the distribution of industrial and consumer batteries to the worldwide market. The energy division provides a training, service and distribution centre to offer a full turnkey solution for residential and commercial battery energy storage systems.
The group has built a reputation as being specialists in solar and battery technology, particularly the development of bespoke, custom-built battery packs. Mark and AceOn have been selected by the UK Government as one of its Export Champions.