A Turkish company’s expertise in turning freighters built for carrying coal or sand into mobile power stations has created a windfall during the pandemic –it has also been building floating power plants with unbeatable delivery times: 60 days maximum to anywhere in the world.
To meet delivery deadlines quickly, the company invests massively to build ships before they have been ordered, a calculated risk.
Their expertise is proving to be an antidote to woes brought onto energy supply projects by the pandemic.
“At the shipyard, it takes around 18 months to build a ship, but since we are doing our construction back to back, we can produce our ships in six months,” explained Deniz Yalcindag, a Karpowership engineer.
The pandemic has reportedly forced many companies to shut down and bringing construction to a halt.
Lockdown measures taken by several countries for months have obstructed progress of conventional power plant projects, whose construction already takes several years even in normal times.
“Credit committees were not approving credits, suppliers weren’t able to meet their timelines, (and) workers weren’t able to do constructions on site,” Zeynep Harezi, Karpowership’s chief commercial officer, told AFP.
“So, the demand for our powerships naturally increased. We are now speaking to more than a dozen countries who requested powerships as soon as possible,” she added.
The principle is simple: a merchant vessel is converted into a floating power plant, typically fueled by diesel or liquid gas used to generate electricity.
It then travels to its destination where it connects to the local grid, supplying a steady stream of power.
It has deployed 19 such plants in 11 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia as well as Cuba.
They are particularly suitable for countries whose capacity is insufficient to meet growing demand, or where infrastructure has been destroyed by conflict.
The company said it was ready to deploy powerships “from this summer onwards” to supply 1,000 megawatts (MW) or “eight hours of additional electricity” per day to a country facing massive blackouts.
Some observers say that the powerships can never be more than temporary solutions for countries with insufficient or obsolete infrastructure.
But that is simply a “psychological barrier,” Harezi objects, saying the floating plants can remain in place for up to 25 years, protected by a special coating applied to their hulls.
The firm has been building floating plants for almost 15 years by converting old freight ships, making it a leading player in the industry with a fleet of 25 powerships.