Washington State Ferries — Second-Largest Ferry Network — Switching From Diesel To Batteries

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Washington State Ferries will be following Ellen’s example near the Danish island of Ærø. Washington often leads and succeeds where other states hover, discuss, and are quite too slow to transition. Washington also runs the second-largest ferry system in the world, so switching from diesel to batteries in the early part of a trend toward electrification in shipping is vital to set better standards in marine shipping. All the more helpful considering how large system is.

Yet again, we have Washington Governor Jay Inslee to thank for his climate change leadership. Inslee is behind the mandate.

“Ian Sterling, public information officer for Washington State Ferries, said the move would cut the cost and pollution caused by the current annual consumption of almost 20 million gallons of diesel across a fleet of 22 vessels ferrying 25 million people a year,” Greentech Media reports.

“The government-owned ferry operator’s annual fuel consumption is on par with that of a ‘midsize airline,’ he said, making it the state’s biggest diesel polluter.”

Sterling added that switch to batteries is “not just because the governor said [to do] it.” It makes financial sense. “But even if you’re not an environmentalist, this is a good idea for the taxpayer because we expect it to pay for itself relatively quickly, based on the price of fuel. It saves millions of dollars annually.”

The constantly declining cost of batteries prompted the state to take a second look, and a more serious look, at electric shipping. They expect the ferries to go into operation within a couple of years.

Washington State Ferries cover most of the Puget Sound, which means nearly 1,000 square miles.

Another positive thing about this is that the ferry operator’s electrification program will start with the most polluting vessels. The three Jumbo Mark II ferries, which consume 5 million gallons of fuel a year between them, will have the first upgrades. Each vessel will have two of its four diesel generators and locomotive engines replaced with battery systems supplied by Siemens.

The emissions reductions just from electrifying the three Jumbo Mark IIs in the fleet are expected to be as much as if you took 10,000 non-electric cars of the street.

Greentech Media continues, “The Washington State Ferries program will also require a major quayside electrification effort, with Seattle-Bainbridge Island and Mukilteo-Clinton likely to become the first routes with charging points at both ends.”

On the greener, cleaner marine front, Washington State Ferries is a leader that will surely inspire others. British Columbia Ferry Services is reportedly considering electrification of its fleet as well. Assuming a good launch in Washington, the slightly further-north service should feel confident to go electric, too.

It was in August that one of the world’s largest all-electric ferries, a 200-passenger, 30-car carrying vessel called Ellen went from Fynshav to Søby in southern Denmark, marking the movement of an early but promising industry. There is also the Ampere (formerly ZeroCat). “A groundbreaking ferry constructed for Norled by the Norwegian Shipyard Fjellstrand in Omastrand in collaboration with Siemens and Norled.” It was the world’s first electric-powered car ferry and generates zero emissions and minimum sound. (The ferry was delivered in October 2014 and commercial operations began in May 2015.) The Northern Europeans lead, again in this case.

The Pacific Northwest and Denmark are not alone, though. The UK government is already requiring that all new ships ordered for its waters from 2025 onward must be equipped with zero-emission technology.

There are reportedly 101 battery-operated ferries for cars and passengers around the world, and 76 more are under construction.

Related Stories: Batteries Are Breaking Through

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Cynthia Shahan

Cynthia Shahan, started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. Words can be used improperly depending on the culture you are in. (Several unrelated publications) She has a degree in Education, Anthropology, Creative Writing, and was tutored in Art as a young child thanks to her father the Doctor.

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