In a move understood to be the first of its kind a major fuel cell manufacturer is to open a factory dedicated to the production and repair of marine fuel cells.
Ballard Power Systems aims to open its Marine Centre of Excellence in Hobro in Denmark this year. Annual production capacity is expected to exceed 15 MW.
The company said that development work would be based on Ballard’s new FCgen-LCS fuel cell stack, unveiled in September, and its next-generation heavy duty power module. Both are planned for commercial launch later this year and are designed to meet European marine certification requirements.
Ballard Europe president and CEO Jesper Themsen said: “We are witnessing early indicators of long-term disruption in the marine industry, with dirty diesel engines being substituted by zero-emission fuel cell systems. Our Marine Centre of Excellence together with our extensive experience and knowledge in heavy duty applications such as buses, trucks and trains will position Ballard at the epicentre of this critical transition.”
The company is involved in several marine projects including HySeas III, the world’s first sea-going renewables-powered car and passenger ferry, which will operate in the Orkney Archipelago off the coast of Scotland. Other projects include a fuel cell-powered ferry demonstrator in Norway and a river barge in France.
Ballard noted that fuel cell modules deliver design flexibility, including modular components and scalable power to support vessel propulsion, auxiliary power and system redundancy. They also boast extended range compared to batteries at a reduced weight.
Fuel cells do not store energy but convert it to electricity from an external fuel source (often hydrogen), as opposed to batteries which store and then discharge electricity. The development of marine batteries is years ahead of fuel cells: the first fully battery-powered ferry Ampere was launched in 2015, while the first fully fuel-cell powered sea-going vessel is expected to enter service next year, with projects in Norway and Scotland competing for the honour. Siemens operates a robotised factory dedicated to marine batteries in Trondheim while Corvus' marine battery production site in Bergen is expected to be fully open in the second half of 2019.