Goodbye subsea cables, hello power transfer vessels?

Written by Nick Blenkey
Power Transfer Vessel

Could offshore wind generated electricity be brought ashore by ship? A Japanese start-up thinks so

Is there an alternative to bringing offshore wind power to shore via subsea cables? Japanese start-up PowerX thinks so. It says that new Japanese government targets for renewable energy will require a boost of offshore wind power from the current 20 MW to 10 GW by fiscal 2030 and to 30-45 GW by fiscal 2040. PowerX is offering a solution aimed at allow a greater flexibility for offshore wind farm locations, especially for an island country like Japan.

PowerX plans to design and build a range of automated power transfer vessels, called Power Arks, with massive battery payloads to transport offshore wind power to shore.

The company argues that an undersea power cable typically requires expensive construction that comes with substantial environmental impacts. In comparison, the power transfer vessel is resilient to natural disasters, requires less time and cost for development, leaves minimal impact on the environment, and is therefore is able to expand the potential of offshore wind power significantly.

Most of the world’s energy is transported by ships, in the form of fuel such as oil, gas, and coal. Currently, 84.9% of Japan’s power is generated by burning carbon-based fuels imported by ships.

“As the world shifts away from fossil fuels,” says PowerX, “the energy ship of the future will carry electricity from clean and renewable sources, replacing the fuel-carrying carbon ships of today.”

The first model of the Power ARK series, “Power ARK 100” is a 100.5 meter long by 21.9 meter wide, 2,200 dwt trimaran specially designed for transferring renewable energy in Japan’s coastal waters.

On its completion in 2025, says PowerX, “Power ARK 100 will carry 100 grid batteries, hence 200 MWh of power (equivalent to the total electricity consumption by 22,000 Japanese households in a day, The vessel can travel up to 300 km when running only on electricity and will be able to unlock long-distance, intercontinental clean power transmission when it is powered by both electricity and sustainable biodiesel fuels.

 “Power ARK 100” is a  100.5 meter long x 21.9 meter wide, 2,200 dwt trimaran
“Power ARK 100” is a 100.5 meter long x 21.9 meter wide, 2,200 dwt trimaran

PowerX also aims to build a giga-scale battery assembly facility in Japan to mass-produce batteries for the Power Transfer Vessel.

With an acceleration toward decarbonization across the globe, the demand for large energy storage is soaring, says the company. Off-the-shelf battery cells will be packaged based on the use case, which includes EV (electric vehicle) fast-charging, grid, and marine batteries. The factory’s annual production capacity will achieve 1 GWh by 2024, and will eventually reach 5 GWh by 2028. Productions lines will be automated to mass-produce at a low cost.

PowerX’s co-founders are its CEO, Masahiro Ito, and its chairman, Tadahisa Hardy Kagimoto.

Ito is a lifelong entrepreneur. In 2000, he founded Yappa, a software company that pioneered the development of digital visualization technologies. In 2014, Yappa was sold to ZOZO, Japan’s leading fashion e-commerce firm. Yappa was renamed as ZOZO Technologies and Ito served as its CEO until 2017, when he became a board member of ZOZO. In 2019, Masa was appointed COO of ZOZO, which is now well-known for his many innovative inventions, including 3D body measuring devices such as ZOZOSUIT, ZOZOMAT, ZOZOSUIT 2, and ZOZOGLASS.

Tadahisa “Hardy” Kagimoto is the founder, chairman and CEO of Healios, a biotech company developing stem cell derived regenerative therapies.

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