Apollo Drives Innovation with their Marine EV PALM Charger

Apollo's PALM Charger in action connecting a marine EV to charge it while out in the ocean

Apollo has secured part of a £33 million government funding for ground breaking projects and is set to transform offshore charging with its innovative PALM Charger. The funding, part of the fourth round of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC4), will propel the UK’s efforts to decarbonise its maritime industry while promoting economic growth and job creation in coastal communities.

The PALM Charger project is an evolution of Apollo’s PALM QCS (Pull and Lock Marine) connector technology.

What is the PALM Charger?

The PALM charger will provide offshore charging capabilities for electrically powered marine vessels (marine EVs). It aims to address the challenges posed by the limitations in the charging capacity of marine EVs operating in deeper waters as offshore wind projects expand.

Equipped with a sophisticated pre-fitted winch and reel system, the PALM Charger features a standardised ‘plug’ fitting at its endpoint. On the turbine side, a suspended receptacle resembling a large plug socket awaits, with a strategically positioned handling wire easily accessible to approaching vessels.

The operational process is streamlined: as boats approach the turbine, they secure the handling wire and connect its ends to the winch and the reel/plug. With a simple winding motion of the winch, the plug seamlessly progresses into the receptacle, establishing both electrical and mooring connections. Once the charging process is complete, a swift pull on the winch wire releases the system, and a reverse operation efficiently tidies everything up.

Decarbonising the offshore wind sector

The PALM Charger project plays a pivotal role in the decarbonisation of the offshore wind sector by addressing the limitations of electric marine vessel range.

Enabling charging in the field expands the reach of electric crew transfer vessels and service operations vessels to more remote wind developments. This, in turn, promotes the increased use of low-carbon technologies, facilitating the overall decarbonisation of the fleet.

Will the PALM Charger allow more Scotwind, INTOG and other offshore wind projects to utilise electronic vessels during surveying, construction and maintenance?

Yes, by introducing offshore charging, the PALM Charger project facilitates the use of electronic vessels in future offshore wind projects, including Scotwind, INTOG, and others.

The extended range provided by the PALM Charger allows electric crew transfer vessels and service operations vessels to effectively operate in the field. This becomes particularly crucial for upcoming projects like those in Round 4, ScotWind, and the Celtic Sea, where the distance between wind farms and onshore charging points could be limiting.

Approximately 20 to 40 future wind farms have been identified as falling into this category. There will be a need for continuous offshore operations through construction phases with regular operational support. Apollo is also supporting the ORE Catapult in a project that examines these issues.

When will the PALM Charger trials begin?

EMEC, a key collaborator, will spearhead the testing operations. Working in partnership with Leask Marine‘s vessels and facilities, the project will undertake vessel connection and disconnection operations in various sea states to demonstrate the mechanical and electrical connection systems in an offshore environment.

These trials are scheduled to commence in Orkney (image of the Scapa Flow test site below) over a 2-week period starting in August 2024.

Quote from Apollo's Offshore Renewables Director, Nigel Robinson

“We are delighted to be kicking off this project with our partners EMEC and Leask Marine. The PALM Charger has great potential as a practical, rugged method of recharging marine vessels offshore, and the trials will really help prove it as a commercial product. Looking forward to working at the Scapa Flow test site, which is ideal for putting the system through its paces.”

If the trial proves successful, what implications will the PALM Charger have for the offshore wind sector, as well as other offshore industries?

On completion of a successful trial, we will move into a commercialisation phase to prepare a prototype ready for a pilot deployment.

The potential is substantial with INTOG, Scotwind and the Celtic Sea identified as ideal testing programmes.

Notably, the technology is not regionally specific, the opportunity is global. With an early mover advantage, it could be exported to offshore wind developments worldwide.

Additionally, there are other applications, for instance fishing, aquaculture and pleasure craft that can be tapped into as well. This prospect is very exciting and we are grateful to Innovate UK for their support.

For further discussion on this project please contact us at info@apollo.engineer