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Steamship Authority environmental initiatives

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Steamship Authority receives three electric buses

The Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority is pleased to announce that it has received its first three electric buses to transport customers from its off-site parking lots to its mainland ferry terminals in Hyannis and Woods Hole.

The Authority’s bus drivers will now begin training on the new buses, which are expected to go into service in Falmouth and Hyannis in mid-July 2023.

News release

Vessel alternate propulsion study 

As part of its vessel replacement program, the Steamship Authority authorized a study to look into alternative propulsion opportunities. Elliott Bay Design Group (EBDG), which designed the M/V Island Home and M/V Woods Hole, was selected to perform the study based upon their familiarity with the SSA's routes and vessels. EBDG has been involved with a number of these studies, including the Washington State Ferries study on alternative propulsion.

At the May 26, 2022, Board Meeting, EDBG presented the results of its feasiblity study. 

The scope of EBDG’s objective under the project included:

  • Gather data on the daily energy profiles for both the Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket routes.
  • Energy profiles to include hotel loads for both summer and winter service.
  • Identifying propulsion loads for various weather conditions.
  • Gather data on existing electric grid and utility rate structures.
  • Establish evaluation criteria within three (3) defined categories (vessel emission reductions; operating costs; and capital costs).
  • Examine five (5) different scenarios including the baseline:

1. Geared diesel propulsion with diesel generators (current)

2. Diesel-Electric plant with small battery bank to allow all-electric operation when in the berth (no shore charging)

3. Diesel-Electric plant with battery bank sized for brief increases in power demand should a generator fail (no shore charging)

4. Diesel-Electric with large battery bank sized to handle 50% of operational time as all-electric

5. All-Electric operation with rapid charging on both sides of route (only applies to Martha’s Vineyard route)

  • Identify, for each scenario, the size of battery bank and associated electrical generation and calculate the associated operating costs, fuel savings and emission reductions.
  • Estimate the capital costs for each scenario compared to baseline, including modifications to terminals and utility supply lines.

The report’s conclusions were as follows:

Of the five options considered, Option 1 (diesel mechanical) produced the most emissions and was the cheapest propulsion configuration. Option 5 was the closest to zero emission (wake‐side) configuration and was also the most expensive to procure. The diesel hybrid options (Options 2‐4) produced emissions similar to, but less than the diesel mechanical option with CO2 emission reductions ranging from 7% ‐ 8% depending on the load conditions of the propulsion generators.

Capital costs for the propulsion systems were higher the more emissions were reduced. The increase in cost amongst the hybrid and all electric options was largely related to the quantity of batteries needed in each powering scenario.

Future studies and analyses could be performed to better define a vessel optimized for an all‐electric or hybrid option. There is likely a sweet‐spot design that would work well on both routes. An all‐electric configuration for the Hyannis – Nantucket route was not considered in this study, and the quantity of batteries for that application would likely be prohibitive. An evaluation of the existing M/V WOODS HOLE hold space for fit of a diesel hybrid propulsion configuration is recommended.

This study did not consider any alternate fuels such as methanol, hydrogen, or ammonia as potential vehicles for emissions reduction relative to diesel. To do so would require an in‐depth analysis of the supply chain of such fuels.

View the full study here. View the Board Meeting presentation here. The video of the presentation may be viewed below. 

Currently, the route profile of the SSA supports the premise that a hybrid vessel is the most likely near-term solution. The Authority has submitted a grant application to U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration to study design, engineering, and conversion of five of the Authority's vessel classes. This includes the Authority's three newly purchased used Offshore Supply Vessels - the M/V Aquinnah, M/V Barnstable, and M/V Monomoy.   

Several hybrid systems integration companies have solutions that are a good fit for the Authority's route profile. However, changes in technologies may offer additional solutions. Elliott Bay Design Group is also reworking certain assumptions in its study on climate impact and both running costs and capital costs. 

Electric buses coming

The Steamship Authority placed its first-ever order for electric buses, which will transport customers from its off-site parking lots to its mainland ferry terminals in Hyannis and Woods Hole. The Authority Board authorized the purchase during its January 25, 2021, meeting.

Electric bus illustration_smallThree 40-foot long, low-floor electric buses, along with the necessary charging infrastructure, were ordered from BYD North America for a total price not to exceed $2,950,000. Two of the buses will serve the Woods Hole terminal, and one will serve the Hyannis terminal. It is expected that the buses will be in service year-round at both locations starting in 2023.

The purchase price was offset by two grants the Authority received in 2019 totaling $875,000. One was from the Volkswagen Settlement Grant Program (administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) and the other was awarded under the Federal Transit Administration’s Low or No-Emission Program.

A second purchase of electric buses was authorized by the Board in early 2022.

Solar and Battery Storage Project

TBL solar smallThe Steamship Authority and NextGrid Inc. have finalized a contract for the installation of a 5,900 kilowatt solar and 6,100 kilowatt-hour battery storage development at the Authority’s Thomas B. Landers Road parking lot. The development is the first such energy project in our history.

As part of the project, NextGrid will be responsible for the construction, operation and maintenance of the energy development and make annual lease payments to the Authority, which range from $415,000 in Year 1 up to $727,705 in Year 20 for an aggregate net present value total of more than $8.9 million. In addition, NextGrid will sell electricity/net metering credits to the Authority worth a net present value of more than $650,000.

The Thomas B. Landers Road parking lot is the Authority’s largest, with the capacity for approximately 1,900 vehicles over 18.5 acres of land in Falmouth. It opened in June 2015 and allowed for the consolidation of several off-site parking lots in the Falmouth area.

News release: Solar development agreement finalized

Woods Hole Terminal Reconstruction Project

As part of the landside portion of its Woods Hole Terminal Reconstruction Project, the Steamship Authority is pursuing energy-efficient upgrades to the site design in an effort to obtain LEED certification for the project. The site design has been updated to include photovoltaic arrays in the vehicle staging area, the employee parking lot, and on the roofs of the terminal building and utility building. Additionally, a geothermal system to provide heating and cooling is being designed. The Authority Board, in August 2021, voted to affirm support for the landside phase of the project to achieve net-zero energy status through the use of photovoltaic and geothermal energy systems.

Canned water to replace single-use plastic bottles at Steamship Authority snack bars

Open Water bottles smallThe Steamship Authority is pleased to announce that its longtime hospitality partner, Sodexo Live!, will phase out drinking water in plastic bottles and begin carrying Open Water canned water at all the Authority’s snack bar locations.

The switch to a resealable 16-ounce can comes as a number of the Authority’s port communities have curtailed or banned the sale of water in single-use plastic products. 

“All of us at the Steamship Authority remain committed to pursuing the most environmentally friendly operations possible, and this is a significant step in that direction,” said Steamship Authority General Manager Robert B. Davis. “We are pleased that Sodexo Live! and Open Water are collaborating to make this important sustainability effort a reality.”

News release