Torbjørn Egeland-Eriksen at the UNITECH Offshore offices in Haugesund.

Cluster partner UNITECH Offshore has engaged PhD student Torbjørn Egeland-Eriksen to develop software that will ease the integration of renewable energy and storage solutions in offline or online grids. The tool might become useful for zero emission cruise vessels or fish-farms.

Egeland-Eriksen is employed by cluster partner UNITECH Offshore while doing research for his doctoral degree at the University of Oslo Institute for Technology Systems (ITS). His industrial PhD is a scheme partly funded by The Research Council of Norway, where a company collaborates with a university.

– To be able to reach the ambitious targets of the Paris climate agreement, we need to integrate more renewable energy in the grids. Alongside the growing volumes we need better tools to overcome challenges with power fluctuations and grid reliability, Torbjørn Egeland-Eriksen explains.

In his PhD he wants to develop data models based on machine learning and simulation that can be used to optimize energy systems.

– To increase production and consumption of renewable energy we need methods and technology that help us design optimized energy systems faster and better. We want renewable energy to become more competitive compared to fossil fuels. If we reduce costs, we can also reduce emissions, he says.

For online and offline grids

The goal of his PhD is to study integration of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, including batteries, into online and offline grids, or a combination of the two. It could prove useful for the future zero emission cruise vessel launched by NCE Maritime CleanTech earlier this year or off-grid fish-farms. In principle you can use it anywhere you want to combine solar, wind and battery storage.

– The intermittent nature of new, renewable energy means that we must combine them with energy storage. But battery systems are expensive, which is why you need tools to avoid oversizing the energy system. In many cases you will end up with a hybrid system, with batteries for short term storage and hydrogen for long term storage, Egeland-Eriksen says.

Cluster partner UNITECH Offshore is already looking into renewable energy production from wind and solar, including energy storage solutions, for a variety of maritime applications, above and below water.

– One of the main advantages of doing your PhD at a company like UNITECH Offshore, is that there will be a range of projects on which I can test my theories and software. I want to make a difference; the PhD student says.

In discussions with IFE

During his PhD Torbjørn Egeland-Eriksen considers involving the Australian University of Griffith in Brisbane and their off-grid research center. They produce their own renewable energy and store it in batteries and in hydrogen metal hydride storage tanks. He is also in dialogue with energy experts at Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), which is also a partner in NCE Maritime CleanTech.

While the PhD seems very theoretical, Egeland-Eriksen, want his research to be based on data from physical systems. In ITS at the University of Oslo they will develop a real-life test platform, where he can test his computer models. The physical system will use batteries and different types of hydrogen storage concepts.

– I want to develop the software, then test it and optimize it. I will test both single components and complete systems. In my computer model you should be able to feed the relevant parameters from your project and simulate different scenarios. In the end I want to find the best combination of components and optimize the system.

The UNITECH Offshore owned Zefyros windturbine is a floating test center for renewable energy solutions.

An asset for Sustainable Energy

UNITECH Offshore are currently establishing a new technology center  and have several innovative solutions in the pipeline, such as their renewable energy fish-farming concept Salmo Solar. It can also serve as offshore charging stations for maritime applications.

– The Salmo Solar concept is one of our projects where I seek to test the software I am developing. Real life projects will allow us to develop better simulations and higher quality computer models, Egeland-Eriksen says.

UNITECH Offshore is also a contributor to the NCE Maritime CleanTech initiated Sustainable Energy Norwegian Catapult Centre. It offers facilities, knowledge and network for testing of land-based and offshore energy systems and components. The PhD research will turn into valuable knowledge for Sustainable Energy’s customers.

Among UNITECH Offshore’s assets available through the catapult centre, is the Zefyros floating offshore wind turbine. It is ready to be equipped with a battery solution, which means it can be used to charge electrical vessels offshore. Windfarm workboats could be one interesting target group for such technology.

– I know a lot about renewable energy and storage but am currently learning how to transfer this into computer models. I use a lot of time to study different machine learning techniques and algorithms to see which are best suited for optimizing energy systems, Torbjørn Egeland-Eriksen says.