TOKYO -- Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries has created a floating, gas-fired power plant that can be anchored offshore to supply electricity to nearby communities.
The vessel is the first of its kind able to generate 100,000 kW of electricity.
Kawasaki Heavy hopes to sell the ship to customers such as power companies in rapidly growing economies in Asia, where infrastructure remains underdeveloped, and as an emergency source of power in areas hit by natural disasters. The industrial equipment maker also believes its ship can help create "distributed power generation" systems, which produce electricity near the point of consumption to ease the environmental burden.
The power plant is a barge measuring about 100 meters long and is equipped with generators, fuel tanks to store the liquefied natural gas that fires them, and power distribution equipment. The vessel will be assembled at a shipyard, towed where needed and anchored to the sea floor. By putting the ship near where consumers are, power transmission distances can be shortened.
Equipped with a high-efficiency gas turbine, the ship can generate between 30,000 kW and 160,000 kW of electricity, enough to supply power to between 100,000 and 160,000 homes. It will sell for around 20 billion yen ($176.3 million). Kawasaki Heavy's system will include a small fueling vessel, taking advantage of the company's skills in building LNG tankers.
The gas-fired, floating power plant is 10% more efficient than a comparably sized coal- or oil-fired plant.
Requiring around four years to build, the plant can go online more quickly than land-based facilities because it requires almost no civil engineering. This will allow utilities to recoup their costs more quickly.
Kawasaki Heavy expects the ships to sell well in energy-hungry Southeast Asia, with its many islands.
Up to now, many countries have relied on big land-based plants with generating capacities of several million kilowatts. Such plants are often fired by coal and require massive electricity grids to supply power to a wide area.
But since the Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted in 2016, countries are facing growing pressure to rely less heavily on carbon-heavy fuels such as coal for their power needs.