Pioneering Solar Technology for Shipping Industry Unveiled

Photo by Chris Paga

In a major step toward decarbonizing the shipping industry, a Welsh company has developed a cutting-edge solar technology that could revolutionize how vessels harness renewable energy at sea.

Grafmarine, based in Anglesey and Manchester, has unveiled a rugged new model of its Nanodeck solar tile system, designed specifically for the harsh marine environment. The square tile, in addition to the company’s existing hexagonal shape, will soon undergo testing on vessels operated by SMT Shipping, a global leader in bulk cargo transportation.

The new square design allows the tiles to connect seamlessly on flat surfaces, enabling Grafmarine’s artificial intelligence solar management system to capture, store and remotely manage clean energy more efficiently. This advancement comes as major players in the international shipping market are under increasing pressure to reduce their carbon footprints and explore sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels.

“Testing this latest model will allow us to use more conventional materials in a square model, which is simpler to manufacture, more powerful and considerably more cost efficient for the client,” said Nigel Marc Roberts, commercial director of Grafmarine. “We will of course still use recyclable ocean plastics and our ethos as a business is to be a pioneer in fully recyclable renewable energy, but this gives us scope to gather data that will feed into the production process.”

Mr. Roberts emphasized that the new square tiles are “really heavy-duty and ruggedized,” making them easy to repair, replace and recycle — crucial attributes for withstanding the extreme conditions at sea.

Chris Russell, Grafmarine’s engineering director, said the company would produce both the square and hexagonal models, targeting different markets. “The square is ideal for the hard-wearing, extreme conditions of the shipping industry while the hexagonal alternative is more aesthetically pleasing and attracting a lot of interest in the luxury super-yacht market,” he said.

The partnership with SMT Shipping, a company with over 30 years of experience operating a fleet of more than 60 vessels worldwide, will provide Grafmarine with a valuable platform to further develop and refine its technology.

“We’re thrilled to include the Nanodeck technology in our ‘Towards Zer0’ program to test new technologies that can be scaled up within the fleet,” a spokesperson for SMT Shipping said. “We look forward to the test results and together with Grafmarine will investigate how these systems can be applied on our fleet.”

With operations spanning the Americas, Europe, West Africa and beyond, SMT Shipping recognized the importance of decarbonization several years ago and launched the “Towards Zer0” initiative to explore sustainable solutions.

As the shipping industry faces mounting pressure from customers, legislators and global climate targets to reduce its environmental impact, innovations like Grafmarine’s solar tile system could play a pivotal role in transitioning fleets toward a more sustainable future.

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